Why we should ban backyard fireworks: Part 2
It was far and away the most contentious column I’ve ever written — so much so that the reader response even surprised me. And after more than a decade of writing in this space, about topics that occasionally tend to ruffle feathers, I thought I’d seen the full spectrum of reader reactions.
Not since I dared to raise the notion that a woman might want to live her life on her own terms without getting married, have I been on the receiving end of such hostility. Because yes, those columns — and there have been many over the years — probably rank second in reader rancour (mostly from men labelling me a man-hater). Third would be the time I wrote about being sexually assaulted which prompted both letters of encouragement, as well as many emails (including from women) telling me I deserved what I got.
But the one column that hit the biggest nerve in this city was when I wrote (a few years back) about how I think we should ban backyard fireworks. And seeing that we’re coming off a holiday long weekend chock full of them, and are staring down a summer with at least two more long weekends, and maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, I think it’s time to revisit the topic.
So to be clear: I do not, and never have, suggested we ban fireworks from Hamilton altogether. If I could live in a society all by myself and make up the rules of the world without any regard for another human being, sure I would ban fireworks entirely. But I do live in a society with other people, people who enjoy them, so I am proposing we keep organized community fireworks displays like the ones in the Dundas Driving Park, Bayfront Park, and even by neighbourhood groups in other city parks. And I am proposing there be a time limit, say, half an hour, for said fireworks display. And then it ends. Finished. I am proposing we ban backyard fireworks, the ones that are set off in alleyways and right next door to your home at all hours of the day (yes) and night over the course of every long weekend in the summer.
Why? Because while you sit on the grass staring at the pretty lights in the sky, or are just getting your kicks igniting stuff that makes a loud bang, a large percentage of dog owners and parents of babies, are beyond stressed, trying to manage crying, shaking, barking and peeing out of sheer terror (the latter two probably just the pups).
Because it’s never just half an hour of fireworks — it’s three full nights from dusk until well past midnight, of all three long weekends in the summer. Three long summer weekends that are essentially ruined for people who don’t enjoy fireworks. And while I can’t speak to or for people who have medical conditions that are triggered by bright lights and loud noises, I have no doubt they’re out there. Not to mention the effect the damn things must have on wildlife.
When I wrote about this a few years ago, I was accused of hating fun, of hating tradition, of hating children. That I don’t understand what it’s like to attend a wonderful long-weekend barbecue that is topped off by a fabulous fireworks display. Um, yeah, I do. And my response to that is if the only way you can teach your kids to have fun is by lighting stuff on fire and tormenting your neighbours, then maybe I’m not the one full of hate. Again, we live in a society where we should at least try to be considerate of others. So where is the consideration for those of us who are terrorized by fireworks? Where is the compromise?
I know you’re out there, those of you who agree with me. I see you on social media, I hear your complaints, I’ve read your emails. But the faction of people who want things to never change, to stay the same as they’ve always been, to have the right to do and say whatever they want regardless of anyone else … well, they’re way louder than you are. So for those of you who have had enough, I propose you get loud. Write, call, text your city councillors. Let them know how you feel. Because it’s awful to have to hope for rain every holiday weekend in the summer.
Long weekends are essentially ruined for people who don’t enjoy fireworks, says Sheryl Nadler.