A Culture Of Paranoia Chokes Fun In Life

CAROLING WITH CAROL

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We live in a culture of paranoia.

The first two lines of the press release from Prevent Blindness America (PBA) read: "The Fourth of July is just a few weeks away and some Americans are already planning for the big holiday. But hopefully, those plans won't include setting off fireworks."

The release then went on to tell the story of a young boy, who was blinded, and died of a head injury, from a "legal, aerial firework device" that was lit by a family member at a holiday picnic.

An awful story.

I tire of sweeping generalizations -- someone got hurt with fireworks, therefore nobody should use them.

I wonder if the first cave man to burn his fingers on a campfire would agree.

1976

The two hundredth birthday of the United Sates made 1976 the year for fireworks. My family lit them in the middle of the desert (now the bustling community of Cave Creek) at an Easter reunion picnic. As memory serves, that was a tradition.

My cousin Daphne and I lit small fountains of sparks that left lots of swirled black marks on the driveway. My Popa was ticked off and we were set to scrubbing the concrete.

I flew alone on an airplane for the first time to visit relatives in Texas that summer. We set off fireworks -- bottle rockets, sparklers, fountains, Roman candles, you name the cracker, we lit it. I did not know, until my mother opened my suitcase, that I should not have brought fireworks back home via Delta Airlines.

Now, according to Arizona law, companies are allowed to manufacture fireworks for sale out of state. Qualified pyrotechnic experts are allowed to set off displays of fireworks. Neither you, nor I, can buy, sell, use or possess fireworks.

Same for California.

Yet, 20 years ago, when a bottle rocket a friend set off ruined my favorite cotton sweater, such was not the case.

It was not Joey's fault. I was not paying attention and walked in the ‘fire zone' in the parking lot where a group of people were having fun.

If the rocket had hit me a foot higher and a few inches to center, the results would have been far worse for me.

That injury would be my fault.

There are many laws on the books that save me from myself. Other laws purport to save me from a thing someone else thought I was not smart enough to evade on my own.

Smoke

Take the fact that Arizona is smoke-free.

I understand that second hand smoke is unhealthy.

As a nonsmoker, I have been annoyed at the amount of smoke in a restaurant or bar.

Guess what? If the smoke annoyed me too much, I simply took my dining dollars elsewhere.

I wonder how long it will be before people launch complaints that they can't eat or drink in the patio area outside a restaurant or bar because the smoke bothers them -- Let us enact another law.

Seat belts

Seat belts hold the driver at the wheel, so he can (hopefully) keep control of the vehicle, as well as not be slammed around inside it.

Not wearing one is illegal.

Insurance companies might not cover your accident if you were not wearing a seat belt.

I do not like seat belts. They cross my neck uncomfortably.

The inventor who comes up with a seat belt that is comfortable for women, who aren't built like boys, will be an instant millionaire.

Freedom

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "We are condemned to be free."

That freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility.

The freedom to have a child means there is a responsibility to be a parent.

The government required manufacturers to install V-chips in televisions, so that parents can block their children from seeing programs they deem unsuitable.

As a parent, I liked the idea of being able to block those programs, but I do not think the government needed to mandate the V-chip. To buy a V-chip, or not to buy, should be a consumer choice.

The Federal Children's Internet Protection Act charges public libraries with the responsibility for the safety of minors on the Internet, if they want to receive E-rate program discounts.

There are mandatory filters that must be in place, yet, how stridently the act is implemented is open to interpretation by library directors.

Minors in Payson cannot go online at the local library, even to do research for school, unless their parent or guardian is sitting beside them.

I believe the local policy is overkill, but it does put the responsibility for where a child is surfing directly on the parent.

The PBA press release blamed the accident on the fireworks, not the person who set them off unsafely.

I was a little kid when I held my first sparkler way-out-in-front-of-me, pointed forward, because they burn hot.

PBA reported that in 2005, sparklers hurt 500 children under the age of five.

I guess my parents took a risk letting me have fun. -- Just like the parents who let their children participate in school sports and equestrian contests.

I worry when my daughter rides her bike, because I remember the accidents I had on mine.

So I tell her, stop at the stop sign, look both ways, and enjoy the ride.

When our nation celebrates its 300th birthday in 2076, I plan to light fireworks in celebration -- even if I have to go to another country to do so.

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