Every Fourth of July, I wonder if (American) animals think it’s the end of the world. Imagine what not just one sparkler or firework smells and sounds and looks like to an owl or a deer or a bear or a mouse (or to any farm or domestic animal); imagine thousands popping up in all directions, in no apparent pattern; with little to no warning (unlike, say, storms or forest fires, which at least usually allow some opportunity to run for cover). These traditional celebrations are supposed to inspire pride and patriotism and gratitude for America…but, if you think of them from a different point of view, they’re terrifying.
I tell my kids that the way we treat those who are vulnerable among us says a lot; that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat the ill, the foreign-born, the downtrodden, the elderly, children, animals…among many others. That call to compassion and kindness is a challenge for all of us every day, I understand that. But a key to compassion is imagination, and imagination requires some effort.
It’s not just the animals who might feel like it’s the end of the world tonight. Think of veterans with ptsd, people living with anxiety, children with sensory disorders…think of people, if that helps you be kinder to animals (or animals, if it helps you be kinder to people). Does anyone deserve to feel paralyzing panic or a frenetic surge of survival instinct? A terror so great (even if irrational to others) that it triggers your freeze or flight or fight response?
I don’t think this compassion is unpatriotic. Would it be so controversial other days of the year? Other holidays? I love being a (hyphenated) American, but I can celebrate my patriotism in ways other than by burning and blowing stuff up.
Would it be so hard for our towns and cities to transition to quiet fireworks, set off only during certain hours (instead of all weekend long), in designated places (as far away from wildlife as possible)? And for friends and family to celebrate with picnics and stargazing (as an option)?
Some of my family members will be sitting outside watching the display tonight, but some of us will be inside, in the basement, with all the pets. I wish I could extend that offer of freedom from fear to other creatures who might need it.
Stay safe, everyone.