Demythologizing Personal Responsibility

It was July 4th weekend, and the people celebrated.  I’m not going to comment about drunken revelry and I’m not going to say that anyone was injured or killed because they were idiots.  If you or anyone in your family was injured in a holiday misadventure, you have my sympathies.  If anyone you know was killed, you also have my sympathies.  There was a time when I would have called it, but there are circumstances to everything.

I sat and watched a neighbor of a relative, and said relative, setting off illegal fireworks on a residential street, in a certain un-named northern central city in the United States.  They weren’t illegal because of their potency.  They were illegal because this city has decided against allowing mature people to be personally responsible for their actions.  Instead, they outlaw things they think are too dangerous for non-professionals to handle.

I sat at a distance and watched as these two gentlemen set off fireworks.  They were brilliant, and small.  And one of them, out of possibly a hundred items, came near the audience.  We all ducked and covered or moved out of the way while the fireworks did what fireworks do.  At the end of our display, we all high-fived our survival, laughing, and complimented the two gentlemen on their show.  These were smaller fireworks, or we would have stayed back farther.  Little bottle rockets, street firecrackers, tiny pretty flammable things.  For the bigger display we were treated to later, we were in a wide open field well away from the actual launches, and there were no ground-level fireworks at all.  For the first, we were close enough to hear the rockets sizzle at launch, and then hear the relatively immediate, relatively quiet bangs on detonation.  For the second, there was a significant time delay between seeing the light and hearing the sounds.

And then the police came with their search light.  We were done, we had already cleared off the street.  But we saw the spotlight.  Here’s an example of a city that bans fireworks (and guns), just for an example.  So they’re out there in our supposedly “free” country whose “freedoms” we celebrated on the Fourth.

Because in this city we visited, the city government thinks all mature adults need to be treated like infants and children.  It’s fucking moronic.  In this city, all fireworks are illegal unless handled by a professional company or for a licensed display.  God only knows the insurance requirements.  Strike that, I looked it up, and you have to have a million dollar policy.  But for personal, smaller displays, you have to go to another city to purchase or display any personal fireworks.  So of course there is a huge market in the next city because everyone drives there, buys fireworks for personal use, and drives home.  In this city, personal firearms are also illegal.  There’s no registration process, no allowance for licensing or training.  They’re just illegal.  So of course, criminals run the town and innocent victims of drive-bys and other gang violence are defenseless.

I believe using guns illegally, for nefarious purposes, or unsafely by idiots and criminals, should be outlawed.  Sure.  Fire a gun up in the air with no regard for where that bullet is going to land.  That proves you’re an idiot who needs to be locked up and not allowed to handle firearms.  Sure.  Use a gun to rob an individual or a bank, or to shoot someone.  That proves you are a selfish idiot who needs to be locked up forever and not allowed to handle firearms.  But, use a gun responsibly, with proper licensing and documentation, and I have no problems with that.  Stockpile ammunition?  Collect legal guns?  No problem as long as everything is understood as your responsibility and you handle it safely.

I believe using fireworks is also a matter of personal responsibility.  If you follow the manufacturers safety directions and you and your audience remain a safe distance away, you should be fine.  It’s the same as any other potentially dangerous activity.  Driving a car, boating, fireworks, firearms, drinking, riding a bike, they all fall into that potentially dangerous category, and they require safe handling and following instructions.  In the case of firearms or driving a car or boat, you should have training and a license.  You should follow safe operating procedures.  In the case of fireworks, they should be handled responsibly by a responsible adult.  Our kids were not permitted to light any of the fireworks, and we kept them at a safe distance so that when the one misfired, they weren’t harmed.

I read, sadly, about injuries and deaths caused by fireworks this past weekend.  One lit a mortar he had placed on his head, dying instantly.  I also read about a few people who are missing and probably drowned when their boat sank.  Witnesses confirmed they weren’t wearing life preserving vests.  The local authorities’ spokesman said he’s never pulled a corpse out of the water who was wearing one.

I believe all of these fatalities were avoidable, and most of the injuries as well, but it requires people to take personal responsibility for their actions and to proceed with all due caution.  The government has enough to do spending our fucking tax dollars inefficiently, without having to deal with interfering with our personal lives to the point of removing our access to fireworks, guns, boats and cars, and, a liberated life in general.  There are statistics about violent crime that show gun crime is higher in, say, Chicago, where licensed guns are not allowed, than in, say, any given city in Texas, where everybody who registers can carry them, legally.  The logic behind making fireworks and guns illegal isn’t followed ad absurdum.  But if you’re going to apply those restrictions to one potentially dangerous thing, you should follow it ad absurdum and apply it to all:

Idiots kill or maim themselves or others because they use fireworks in a dangerous way without regard to safe operation, therefore fireworks must be outlawed.  Idiots kill people with their guns because they use them in an unlawful or dangerous way, therefore guns must be outlawed.  Idiots kill people with their cars because they use them in an unlawful or dangerous way, therefore cars must be outlawed.  Idiots don’t put on a safety vest when boating and die, therefore boats should be illegal; in fact, we should put a barricade around the water lest someone go swimming unsafely.  Idiots drink and drive, therefore we should outlaw both cars and alcohol.  Fatty foods cause us to be obese.  Ban the BK and McDonalds?  And the doughnut shop?  Eggs are high in cholesterol, which is bad for us.  Ban all kitchens!  Let the government feed us all supplement tablets that meet our nutritional needs without the dangers of fat and cholesterol!  Then we’ll all be safe.

It sounds absurd, which proves the logic of reductio ad absurdum.  But it doesn’t have to get so absurd, if we apply the requirement of a little personal responsibility.  When I witnessed the small fireworks display, we were all observing from a safe distance.  There was water readily available to extinguish any ground fires (and there were none).

How about, instead of the regulation on the devices, we insist on safe handling and necessary safety training and enforcement.  And how about, instead of charging someone with a misdemeanor or a fine or both for mere ownership of their fireworks, we insist on sales to adults who must follow reasonable safe practices in discharging their fireworks.  We have safety labels on everything, from doughnuts- warning, you may be allergic- and coffee -warning, contents may be hot -(duuuhhhhh?!!!!) to guns and fireworks.  How about we train up our kids to understand some things are dangerous and take a little personal responsibility there as well?  Don’t overeat and you won’t get obese, don’t abuse fire, firearms, or fireworks and you won’t “accidentally” kill or maim yourself or someone else or burn the house or the forest down,  and always observe all safety when operating anything.  Properly fastened seat belts in cars save lives.  Life vests on boaters save lives. Don’t run with scissors, don’t play with knives, don’t put your hands in the lawn mower while it’s running, don’t talk to strangers.  It sounds so much like simple common sense to me.

I’ve said this before.  I’d rather not believe we’ve raised a generation of complete idiots.

I imagine in the time of our country being explored and settled, and maybe even as late as the later 1900s, say, the 1960s maybe, before all the warning labels started going on everything, children were occasionally killed or injured due to accidents.  But back then, I’ll bet children were taught either not to play with fire or (more likely) how fire is to be properly used as a tool.  Back then, I’ll bet, children were taught either not to play with guns or (more likely) how to shoot them, load and unload and clean them safely, and how to use them as a tool.  Children were likely well-supervised as well, and guns were stored high enough so only adults or trained children could reach them.  But people had them and used them for hunting and for personal defense against wild animals or violent humans.  Until 1966 there were no warning labels on tobacco, but people used to call them “coffin nails” because they kind of knew.

We still have violent humans on the loose.  But we’re allowed to, by right, bear arms and form a well-regulated militia to defend ourselves, unless we’re in a city that outlaws them from law abiding citizens, which only keeps them away from non-criminals.  Or maybe we are only allowed to allow professionals, with their guns, to show up, when they can, to defend us, more than likely after the crime is committed and the criminal is long gone, because we’re too stupid to defend ourselves, and too irresponsible to store and use our own guns properly.

Maybe I’m just holding my fellow citizens, fellow mature, responsible adults, to a high standard they just can’t reach any more.  Maybe they are all morons who can’t act responsibly.  Or maybe my government sometimes oversteps itself trying to protect me from myself, and in so doing, dumbs it down for everyone.  I think we should all know about dangerous things, from doughnuts to dynamite.  If we aren’t allowed to touch them, they’re just a little more tempting, especially to criminals with respect to their guns.  Taking mine away implies I’m stupid, and especially with respect to guns, maybe leaves me just a little less safe(, or just defenseless,) than I would be without the government’s help.

Or maybe I’m just a fucking idiot surrounded by fucking idiots who needs the government (who would then be, representative fucking idiots specially chosen from the rest of us fucking idiots because they’re less idiotic) to protect me from myself and everyone else.    I don’t think we’re all fucking idiots.  But some people probably qualify.  And I just don’t think all that intervention is really necessary.

Do you?

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2 thoughts on “Demythologizing Personal Responsibility

  1. No I don’t think most of it is “necessary”. It’s not about “safety” it’s about control. I smell Viva Revolucion! Could be me, though. I find it appalling that if you defend your home from an intruder, said intruder can then sue YOU if you harm them. REALLY?! That’s just asinine. All of it is asinine and idiotic. And sad. really really really sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate fireworks badly for the way they freak dogs etc out, and my ptsd causes me to fear them too. Speaking of warning labels, I saw and old stone staircase in the UK once, which was perfectly safe; it had a sign saying ‘warning – old staircase’. Ffs.

    Liked by 1 person

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