I spent the evening of July the Fourth at a dinner party in Edgeworth. It might as well have been a junior version of Beirut to judge by the number of explosions. The local police weren't completely oblivious - I was told that a patrol car arrived at a friend's house with lights flashing to put an end to the alleged fireworks. But why bother?
Pennsylvania's prohibition against all but the most weeny fireworks in private hands strikes me as distinctly un-American. You can buy guns in this commonwealth but not fireworks? It is passing strange.
I point to this piece of historical evidence to support my case: On Saturday morning, the Post-Gazette ran an editorial based on the excerpted letters John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail just after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He mused on how the momentous day might in future times be celebrated:
"It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
But no illuminations here for us in nanny Pennsylvania, except those approved by the authorities for public displays. In the privacy of our backyards, no illuminations are allowed beyond hand-held sparklers.
I realize that if successful in advocating private possession and use of fireworks, I would live to regret an increase in the numbers of the injured seen in hospital emergency rooms. Fireworks are dangerous. However, I let them off when I was a kid and I still have both eyes and all my digits. I also had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. All that is required is an ounce of common sense and some adult supervision.
In my reckoning, a greater damage is done to society by laws that are routinely flouted. Such laws breed a general contempt for the law that blows people's brains out over the long haul. The insistence that young people cannot drink alcohol until they are 21 - even though they are adults in every other respect at the age of 18 - is another one that is beyond stupid.
In Edgeworth Saturday night, the law was being blown up with merry abandon - and serve it right.