What’s Up With All the Fireworks?

The Daily Escape:

Temple of Luxor, Luxor, Egypt – photo by Hossam Abbas. The temple dates from 1400 BCE. It has been a Roman church and remains a mosque today.

Over the past month, every city, town, and village has been lit up with fireworks. This happens every year: Some neighborhood yahoo will buy firecrackers and more, often travelling out of state to get what they want. Then for a few days up to and including July 4, they are fired off as dusk settles on your town.

But this year is different. We saw well beyond the usual, including professional-size explosives being detonated every night. Watch this video shot by a drone over Los Angles on July 4:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIvdcdogC6k

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

In most ways, these are actually more impressive than a professional fireworks display, since it is spontaneous, and performed so broadly by so many people. Is this the silent majority being heard? If so, what are they saying to the rest of us? Is this simply what people feel they need at the moment?

For the past few months, life has obviously been difficult. So lighting up fireworks to let off steam with a few family and/or friends while having a fun time may be all the explanation that we need.

OTOH, people on the right are calling it a nationwide protest by average people to the authoritarian effort to keep hard working Americans at home as part of the COVID pandemic. The comments on the above YouTube video tend to be like these:

  • A beautiful display of the middle finger to the authoritarian scum trying to squeeze the life out of America. Ain’t gonna happen.
  • American Patriots giving the deep state a big F-You!
  • The silent majority sure were loud this evening.

Theories range from coordinated efforts to blame those protesting police brutality, to bored people blowing off steam following coronavirus lockdowns. The trend, paired with a lack of clear information and a growing climate of distrust in institutions, has sparked some extreme theories, including that the various police departments are encouraging them as a type of civil disobedience.

Since most states allow at least some types of consumer fireworks, it’s difficult to prevent them from showing up in places like New York City where they’re banned. For years, people have been willing to drive a couple of hours away where they can be purchased legally.

According to MarketWatch, Retail aerial fireworks are capped at under 2 inches in diameter and burst at just under 200 feet, while professional fireworks are larger, and can explode hundreds of feet higher.

Perhaps the municipal cancellations of fireworks shows are the culprit: The fireworks business has gone bust from the coronavirus. At Pyroshows, a company that wholesales fireworks, 2020 sales are down almost 80%. A sales rep reported:

“Well, it’s been extreme. A lot of communities have had to cancel their events, therefore they had to cancel their fireworks…”

That means fireworks companies are dumping their products to the public at deep discounts.

So, on this Fourth of July holiday, Americans were out walking around. They had fun with the pretty lights. No cities were burned. They celebrated a 3-day weekend together. Let’s not make too much of it.

People, not the authorities, were in control. And except for dog owners and those who were kept up late by local yahoos, the fireworks displays, along with the Hamilton movie, gave America a much-needed spectacular.

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Saturday Soother, July 3, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Blue Camas bloom, Missoula MT – June 2020 photo by Kurt Kohn. Camas is a plant in the asparagus family, and its bulb was a food staple for Indigenous peoples in the American West.

(Wrongo is taking a break for the July 4th holiday. Blogging will resume on Tuesday 7/7.)

Good morning fellow disease vectors! Welcome to the holiday weekend.

The legal separation of the 13 Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.

After voting for independence, the Continental Congress created a Committee of Five  to write a Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, approving it on July 4. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival… “

Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress, rather than on July 2.

Coincidentally, both Adams and Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as US presidents, died on the same day: July 4, 1826. James Monroe, a founder, but not a signatory of the Declaration, became the third president to die on July 4th in 1831.

Yale Historian David Blight had a short audio piece on NPR on Friday talking about Frederick Douglass. Blight won a 2019 Pulitzer for his book, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”

In his NPR talk, Blight recalls a speech by Douglass in July, 1852 to about 600 abolitionists gathered in Rochester, NY. Douglass had been born enslaved. He’d secretly taught himself to read and write. He became one of the best-known abolitionists and thinkers in the world. The speech that Douglass gave before that crowd in Rochester was called “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”

Blight says it was one of Douglass’s most riveting and compelling speeches. He goes on to quote from it:

“The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice. I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand, illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

Blight closes by saying that today, we may be seeing the third great reckoning about race in our history: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The first was the Civil War and Reconstruction. The second was the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. And now we’re probably having a third one – whatever we’re going to end up calling this…..And he’d [Douglass] warn us that the whole world is watching to see whether this thing called an American republic can really survive.”

Blight also has a series of video lectures on the Civil War that you can watch for free as part of the Open Yale program. Wrongo highly recommends them.

Here’s a fantastic and touching video in which five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read excerpts of Douglass’s famous speech. You can’t do better today than to listen to these young kids speak the words of their famous ancestor.

Time to let go of the world of politics, economics and policy for a few days. We all want a slice of normalcy: A cold beverage, burgers on the grill, fireflies after dark, and family and friends nearby. Although we want all of that right now, we’ll most likely have to settle for just some of it.

Let’s begin the Saturday Soother by brewing up a Cafe Del Sol Cold Brew Coffee ($15.99/12oz.) from San Diego CA’s Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

Now, settle back at an appropriate physical distance and listen to Mickey Guyton’s new song, “Black Like Me”. Guyton is a young black female country music singer/songwriter, one of the very few succeeding in the country music idiom. She’s decided to speak out about the subject of racism. That takes courage, even in today’s Nashville scene. Highly recommend the video, which contains the lyrics of her song:

Sample Lyric:

If you think we live in the land of the free
You should try to be black like me

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Fourth of July, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Wellfleet MA Oyster Farm – 2018 photo by Erin O’Shea Oakes

Today, we spent a couple of hours with Bob Wallace, proprietor of Billingsgate Shellfish, an oyster and clam “farm” in Wellfleet. We had a dozen of Bob’s oysters at C-Shore restaurant in Wellfleet the night before, and wanted to see his work up close, so Chef Bob introduced us to Oysterman Bob.

Bob leased about 5 acres of tidal salt marsh from the town of Wellfleet in 1983. He was the original farmer of Wellfleet oysters, but now, as the popularity of these tasty bivalves has grown, he has substantial competition, with many others leasing grants all around him.

The enormous tidal flow in Wellfleet Bay is part of what makes its oysters so tasty. We were able to walk out to the farm in very shallow water, which became sand in less than an hour. But we knew that in a few hours, the sand we were standing on would be under five+ feet of water.

Its backbreaking work. The oysters and clams are moved from patch to patch at least annually as they grow. Bob has big clients in NYC, and many on Cape Cod and around New England. On Tuesday, he had to harvest, clean, bag and ship 2,000 oysters, and he had just one person helping, so his time was precious.

Thanks Bob, for spending time educating us!

We should remember that 155 years ago yesterday, the Union won at Gettysburg. On July 3, 1863, the three-day Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, PA ended in a major victory for the North, when Confederate troops failed to breach Union positions during Pickett’s Charge, their all-out assault that resulted in horrific losses.

And on July 4th, Ulysses S. Grant crossed the Mississippi River and drove into the Confederate Army’s defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, and capturing it significantly degraded the Confederacy’s ability to maintain its war effort.

And also on July 3rd, in 1775, 243 years ago, Gen. George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

That all worked out pretty well for the US. Happy 4th, but have more than a burger, or hot dog and a beer…

Think about our history, and how it makes us who we are today.

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