The shooting off of fireworks in my neighborhood isn’t something new. The week before and the week after the fourth of July it gets pretty loud. That isn’t to say that fireworks are not shot off at other times of the year. If they are, it is probably literally a handful of them brought out to the sidewalk or alley to be shot off before too much attention is drawn. As the fourth approaches, the momentum builds to a steady flow of pops and bangs.
It can be hard to distinguish between the fireworks and the gun shots. When you hear a loud bang, you have to stop and think for a split second if it was a firework or a gun shot. Gunshots are usually consistently spaced apart – think about the amount of time it would take to pull the trigger, move your finger forward and repeat the process. The spacing in between fireworks is random.
I’m always confused about the legality of fireworks. I see them for sale in the parking lot of Menards near the fourth of July but I am pretty sure it is illegal to shoot them off. People shoot off fireworks all over the place, not just in my neighborhood. In the seven or eight days surrounding the fourth, it is steady. I would assume the mentality is, if everyone is shooting them off, we can too. And because so many of people live within one small area, it is hard to think we are going to get in trouble. It is ok to do something barely illegal, because the chances of anything negative happening are almost zero. It is the same mentality that causes people to drive 20 mph over the speed limit past my house or run a red light or not even slow down at a stop sign. It’s not like you’re going to get in caught and if for some reason you do get caught, there are no real consequences.
We were sitting outside on the night of the first of June and we started to hear them. Pop, space, pop, space, space, pop – not gunshots. Unlike other years, they keep coming. Pop, space, space, bang, space, pop, pop, space, bang. This continues for awhile, maybe an hour, maybe longer, from different directions. It is almost like we skipped June and headed straight into July.
It has been a wild summer in my neighborhood already. There was a pretty serious hit and run accident at the end of the block where the driver fled the scene and, through a series of odd coincidences, ended up in our neighbors yard. We had just taken down the fence in between the two yards so it felt a lot like they were in our yard. There was a murder half a block down. About a week ago there was a standoff/police raid at a house one hundred yards away. The sirens and police talking over their loudspeakers could be heard inside our house until eleven at night – and that’s just the big stuff within the last month.
Events like these aren’t totally uncommon, but the frequency of them is.
It feels like we are in a pot that is slowly moving toward a boil. It’s like that old saying where if you throw a frog in a boiling pot it will jump out, but if you slowly raise the temperature it won’t notice and end up cooked.
People who were working now aren’t. What little financial safety nets once existed, for many, are wiped out. People who prided themselves on not having to take government assistance and were just squeaking by are now living in fear of what is going to happen next. Stimulus checks, which the vast majority of us reading this have already had direct deposited are still “in the mail” for those who are poor and have no bank account. Economic hardship combined with the fog of fear associated with the coronavirus is and will continue to push people into doing things they may not normally do.
Shooting off fireworks is slightly illegal and mildly disrespectful to your neighbors, but it feels good. I am taking the hearing of them on the first and then again on the second of June as a sign that people’s pent up fear and aggression are starting to come out. Three significant police events on one block in a month is another sign that this is starting to boil over. And now we have large scale protests where the actions of a few are highlighted for their destruction.
When we talk about black lives mattering, we have to keep this in mind. Right now many of my poor, black neighbors are living in a pot that is slowly rising to a boil. If we want to start moving in the direction of reconciliation, we need to come to terms with the fact that the actions of our ancestors put them in them in the pot. We then need to understand that unless we do something to fix it, we are raising the temperature. And when it boils over and a ton of stupid shit starts happening, we have to understand our role in letting it happen.