As I drove to work this morning the ground was covered in fine layers of ash and large chunks of debris. Entire streets looked as if parades had come through and left trash everywhere while others were so covered in soot the white lines on the street were a dark grey that nearly blended into the street.
Even though the scene appears to be the remnants of a massive fire, in reality it is what my neighborhood looks like after the Fourth of July. My city is one of two in the area that allow "safe and sane" fireworks. What this really means is that people waste hundreds of dollars to light chemicals and plastics on fire for hours on end. Many people invest in illegal fireworks that shoot into the air and explode for the entire valley to see.
During the peak of the night I was dragged out of the house for a short walk around the block. The air was so thick with burning smoke that I could barely see the parked cars that lined the streets. My throat and eyes burned with every inhalation, and my ears rang with every explosion. I found myself wanting to crawl under my bed and hide like my cat was.
At work this morning a few of us were talking about how loud and damaging the fireworks in our cities were. The discussion went from the environmental harm and the difficulty we had sleeping the night before to all of the waste. Such a waste of materials. Of money. What if we gave all of the money our cities spend on firework shows to schools instead? What if people didn't waste their money on a lights worth of pyrotechnics, but instead donated resources to their local schools or a fund that would help to build a community space like a park?
How do we move past the idea that we need to explode things and cause complete havoc to celebrate a momentous occasion?