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July 04, 2006

On fireworks and flag-burning

The snap of firecrackers and bottle rockets echoes through the neighborhood, mixed with heavier stuff now and then. Been going on since Saturday, along with several decent home fireworks shows. I don't mind -- enjoy it actually. May even have been a few things launched out of my yard when we got home from the Rock Island-Davenport show last night.

I watched from the Arsenal Bridge, close enough for a great view. Reflections off the river were a bonus. Downtown Davenport blazed with lights; the Skybridge was, of course, red, white and blue. The hill above downtown sprouted fireworks, too. Pretty spectacular altogether.

John Adams would approve. Back in July, 1776, with the Declaration newly approved, he wrote to Abigail, saying the day ''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."

We're with you, Mr. Adams, even if a lot of the fireworks are illegal now and even if a good many of the people setting them off may never have heard of you.

So, here's an idea: Iowa and Illinois and the other PC states that ban fireworks ought to give it up, legalize them; just make all purchasers pass a test on the events of July 4, 1776.


July 4 is as good a time as any, too, to say again that amending the Constitution to ban flag-burning is a downright terrible idea. It keeps coming back though, pushed by cheap politicians looking for cheap applause, selling out great principles as they do so.

The latest attempt to provose a Constitutional amendment fell short in the Senate by a single vote last week. (Roll call.)

It's sad and scary that 66 United States Senators were willing to vote for this bit of nonsense. They need to re-read -- or finally read -- United States v. Eichman, the 1990 case in which the Supreme Court reiterated its reasoning on the flag-burning issue.

Among other things, the court said, "since any suggestion that the Government's interest in suppressing speech becomes more weighty as popular opposition to that speech grows is foreign to the First Amendment. While flag desecration -- like virulent ethnic and religious epithets, vulgar repudiations of the draft, and scurrilous caricatures -- is deeply offensive to many, the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."

The politicians who question that reasoning would protect freedom's symbol while destroying its essence.

Posted by jcb at July 4, 2006 11:50 PM


I am glad that John Adams was mentioned on the 4th of July 2006. John Adams never thought that he would be remembered even though he knew that the American Revolution was momentous and in many ways unique in human history. The plain and diminutive, yet honest Adams thought that the accolades would be reserved for men like George Washington. Thankfully, Adamsí assumption was incorrect. Of course jcb you know that Adams died on the 4th of July - exactly 50 years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Adams political adversary turned good friend Thomas Jefferson died the very same day in 1826. Interestingly, Adamsí last words were, "Thomas Jefferson lives" -- but he was incorrect - Jefferson had died earlier in the day.

Posted by: Rob Mellon at July 5, 2006 01:02 AM

I am all for the hostory test, and also all for your stance on flag burning. But I am totally against fireworks. I live down in Galesburg and we have had a much more restrictive policy on fireworks than the state. They decided to end that either this year or last year, and it has been much more annoying the past few weeks. Instead of it being a celebration of our country and our pride, it is a bunch of teen/pre-teen kids seeing how stupid they can be with small explosives. This is a case where I take the side of protecting people over the rights of individuals.

Posted by: Robbie at July 5, 2006 01:02 PM