Thursday, July 05, 2007

4th of July: The Best of America on Display

I was among the estimated 200,000 or so folks who packed Downtown Rochester last night to witness the City's Red, White, & Boom fireworks display. As always, it was a very impressive show; my ears are still ringing from the loud booms in the humid night sky. I must give a thumbs-up to Mayor Duffy and his crew for assembling a great event. Fireworks are our way of remembering our National Anthem's verse, "And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air," and it seems that Americans more than any other nationality, love their fireworks. But maybe we love them a bit too much.

Lost in the frenzy of getting a great spot from which to watch the display was the fact that we were supposed to celebrating our nation's 231st birthday. Love for our nation should include respect for its laws, at least on this one day of the year. Instead what I saw were incredibly rude drivers, foul-mouthed suburban teenagers, and brazen disregard for a city neighborhood and its laws. The way my fellow Americans treated my beloved Corn Hill neighborhood was despicable. Everywhere, cars were parked illegally blocking streets and causing interminable traffic jams. Wealthy suburban white teens with their collars popped were hollering swears at each other from their nice cars while families with young children walked along the sidewalks of Atkinson Street on their way to watch the fireworks. Litter, public drunkenness, illegal fireworks; you name it, it was on display last night.

At some point yesterday evening, I remarked on how nervous I felt knowing that drunk morons and/or their children were setting off powerful fireworks that could touch off a fire destroying one of the neighborhood's many historic homes. Sure enough, the news this morning noted one incident in the city, on Wilkins Street, that nearly destroyed a home. What's worse is that firefighters arrived to find fireworks stuffed in the fire hydrants. The blaze was maximized, and a family's possessions significantly damaged, by this utter lack of respect for community. Firefighters also noted that they had a number of people with fingers blown off due to ignorance on how to handle fireworks.

As a nation, our priorities are all out of whack. We are a nation more concerned with Paris Hilton's jail time than with the thousands of soldiers, rebels, and innocent civilians dying in Iraq. We are a nation of have-nots ruled by a handful of haves. The newest generation of Americans will be the first in our nation's history to have a shorter life expectancy than its parents. We complain about gun violence, but do nothing to control guns. We complain about gas prices, but do nothing to control consumption. We complain about health care costs, but do nothing to control HMOs. All of this makes me wonder, is this a nation worth celebrating any more?