Canada Day has now come and gone – nearly two weeks ago, in fact. There is a topic of debate that comes up every Canada Day, and it is sufficiently polarizing that I felt that the two week “cool down” was necessary prior to adding my thoughts to the discussion. I am not talking about the debate on whether or not to have Canada Day in light of the residential school controversy. Instead, this debate is much simpler and much older – should we have fireworks on Canada Day?
Fireworks are brilliant. They are spectacular. Somehow, they are both predictable and unpredictable. They come in familiar types – the ones that are colourful and go off in groups, the white ones that sparkle and “scream”, and the single ones that make a huge boom. Despite seeing these same classic fireworks year after year, they never get old. Perhaps the surprise of seeing what order they appear in makes it worth seeing the show again next year, or perhaps there really are some things in life that can be enjoyed year after year, decade after decade, in the name of “tradition”.
Where I grew up, there were two locations where fireworks might be held every year. One was in the fairgrounds in front of our house, and the other was in the field behind our house. I can remember the excitement every year – school having just been let out and summer vacation having just begun – of picking a blanket and setting it on the lawn to sit and watch the fireworks. I don’t think I have ever let a Canada Day pass without seeing fireworks in person. During the pandemic, a neighbour of my parents put on spectacular shows two years in a row, so we didn’t even miss out due to COVID.
This year was shaping up to, potentially, be the first year of not seeing fireworks. I didn’t think anything of it. The kids were tired, and we had a pool party to attend the next day. We had all enjoyed a relaxing day, and, with the kids quickly approaching their teenage years, I figured I would be met with eye rolls if we announced we were piling in the car for a “family outing”. When I went to say goodnight to our oldest, he looked sad, so I asked what was wrong. “There are fireworks in 30 minutes and my friends are going, but I know we aren’t going, so it’s okay, it’s totally fine.” Oh dear – “totally fine” my backside. He looked as though he was about to cry.
He, of course, perked right up when I said we still had time to get there. His younger brother immediately accepted the offer to come as well. I was surprised – I didn’t think either of them would be interested in anything that took them away from relaxing Saturday evening video games. When we got in the car, I got an apology. “Sorry for making you take us.” My response was honest: “Do you know how HAPPY I am right now? You guys never ask to leave the house and do family things. I can’t wait!” That set the tone, and the show was amazing. It was probably the closest we had ever been to the action.
There were a lot of people at the show we went to. It was popular. Fireworks represent a type of family fun that only comes around once a year, and it’s the kind of fun that feels so great because it takes place in the name of patriotism and pride. Yet, in the days leading up to Canada Day, and in the days that followed, negative comments rolled in about fireworks.
The argument against having fireworks shows is fairly simple: people suffering from PTSD from military combat may be triggered by the sound, and dogs who are afraid of loud noises may run away. In the spirit of fairness, I can add in two other examples as well: children, and even adults with sensory issues – such as those with autism – may struggle with the noise, and parents of infants and toddlers may have trouble getting their kids to stay asleep during the fireworks if they live nearby.
I absolutely don’t want to be insensitive. These are real potential consequences of fireworks shows, and I sympathize with those who have to deal with these unintended consequences. However, my answer to these complaints is direct: does it have to be about you? I’m sure that many of the older folks reading this would agree that decades ago, people learned to adapt to their surroundings instead of asking everyone around them to accommodate them. It’s similar to people whose traumas are “triggered” by certain topics of conversation, or certain images. Your triggers are your own, and it is not anyone else’s responsibilty to tiptoe around you.
Someone who is traumatized by the sound of fireworks, or has sensory issues, or has young children, clearly knows that fireworks are imminent on July 1 – why not buy earplugs and a noise machine, or ask to stay with a friend or relative who lives far away from any fireworks show? Someone with dogs who attempt to run away during fireworks can simply refrain from opening the door. That last statement is so obvious that it almost seems sarcastic, but it’s not.
I grew up with a handsome golden retriever – Leroy – who was terrified of fireworks. Never once did we say, “I am the sun and all things revolve around me – you shall NOT have fireworks so long as it will bother my precious Leroy!” Leroy’s fear was his own problem, and as his family, it was our job to comfort him through it all while enjoying the show.
It may sound old fashioned and grumpy, but I stand by my opinion. Let families enjoy the decades-old tradition of fireworks, and stop expecting the world to accommodate your every individual need. It is not the world’s job to coddle you – it is your job to adapt, grow, and take responsibility for you.