Why we should ban back­yard fire­works: Part 2

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - sheryl@sh­eryl­nadler.com SHERYL NADLER

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.

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