It was not too long ago (at least for those of us of a certain age) that newspaper editors exhorted their fellow citizens to enjoy a “safe and sane Fourth of July”. That’s because, at a quick glance at one of the items in our “The More Things Change” column this week reveals, the young men of a community used the Fourth as an excuse to go on a reckless rampage throughout the night, destroying public and private property in a drunken spree of vandalism.
Although the term “safe and sane” essentially has disappeared from our lexicon when applied to the Fourth, the idea still applies. The Fourth may not engender the wanton destruction of property of the sort that occurred in those long ago times, but the holiday, especially when it occurs on a weekend, brings out the worst in too many of our fellow citizens who use the occasion to blow off a lot of steam (another old expression, but one which still is in use today).
We can think quickly of two ways in which the Fourth always seems to make for a very unsafe time of year:
Fireworks in the hands of youngsters (or oldsters who have had too much to drink) maim and injure thousands of persons every year. No parent should allow their child to have fireworks for any reason.
Excessive drinking, not to mention drinking and driving or drinking and boating, is the single biggest source of tragedies in our nation, and it is exacerbated at this time of year. Whereas New Year’s Eve is a similar time of revelry, most people have smartened up and either rent a limousine or stay at a hotel. But very few people take the same precautions on the Fourth of July, and all too many people get into their car and drive while under the influence. Ditto for boaters – the concept of a “designated captain of the ship” hasn’t caught on in the boating community.
Whenever we think of drinking and the Fourth of July, we think of a young man we wrote about some 15 or so years ago. He was in his early 20s, was a good athlete, and a good-looking guy. But at a July Fourth party, he became quite inebriated and fell down some stairs.
He suffered a spinal injury and is now a paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair, and all because he had one too many.
We wish all of our readers a happy Fourth of July, but please do so safely.