Independence Day of 2007 has passed. Normally, tying into that day, I'd focus on the facets of Constitutional government as the Founders intended them. Instead, I want to ramble on about some "then and now" thoughts about summertime.
When I was young, in the 60's, every single kid in the neighborhood got fireworks on July 4th. They were only sporadically sold in New Jersey, and expensive, so many parents made trips to other states to get the latest ordnance. There were Roman candles, ubiquitous firecrackers, sparklers for the little kids, bottle rockets (which were often used as dueling weapons), and whistlers, or whizzers, which sounded cool.
The favorite of us junior Demolition Men, since it was alleged to be "the equivalent of a quarter-stick of dynamite", was the M-80 (also known as an "ashcan" in another version). You could flat out blow stuff up with one of those. We put them in all kinds of dangerous vessels: beer cans, Coke bottles, under piles of dirt, in flower pots, whatever. Light 'em and exit the area pronto, unless the thought of picking debris out of your butt cheeks was appealing. Spectacular, loud as all get-out, and destructive; everything a boy could want in a micro-bomb.
On July 2nd of this year, there were signs on I-78 inbound from Pennsylvania, trumpeting the violations you'd be charged with for bringing fireworks into New Jersey. I guess adults just can't be trusted with such things anymore, let alone kids.
At this time of year, I was often with my cousins Jack and Skip, and my Aunt Lorraine would take us to the local swimming hole. She would do this by piling us into the back of her trusty Chevy Nomad wagon, maybe 6 or 7 rambunctious boys, and we'd head out, all windows wide open. Seatbelts were not worn, because her car didn't come with them. We survived dozens of trips nonetheless. Today, that'd be multiple summonses, fines and likely loss of license.
The pond itself was huge, clean and about 15 feet deep, with a great rope swing. You could sail out about 25 feet, let go, and catch another 10 feet of air on your way in. Icy cold water, even in July, and about as good a feeling to fight the heat as you could find. We were all good swimmers, and one of us would hang out on shore and make sure everybody was ok. No professional lifeguards needed. In today's world, there'd be no swimming, to avoid lawsuits. In fact, the pond we swam in was filled in; there now stands a subdivision on that location.
Another great summer activity was hunting for snapping turtles. Nearby was the (polluted, but we didn't really care) Shrewsbury River. It was surrounded by those weeds we called "cattails", but weren't. We headed for Flanigan's Field. There were all kinds of creatures there, from frogs to snakes to all kinds of insect-types. But we were interested in the snappers. We liked the idea of getting hold of an animal that could bite through a broom handle. Made us feel brave, I suppose. I still remember the first time we trapped one, the size of the thing, and its sheer primordial appearance, with barnacles and algae covering his shell. We wouldn't think of hurting them (as if we could). And we always let them go after we looked them over, hauling them into the water with great effort. On one occasion, we got a thumbs-up from a local cop who was watching us work him out of the river and onto the shore. Nowadays, if you could avoid the "no fishing, no hunting, no anything" signs, climb the inevitable barricade fence, and get to the water, you'd be arrested on your way out. The charge would probably be, depriving the turtle of his civil rights.
We rode our bikes everywhere. One of my friends, Danny, would get one big birthday present every year. One year, when I was 14 or so, he got a new Schwinn "Orange Krate" bicycle. It had a "banana" seat and ape-hanger bars, stick shift, and was about the coolest thing you could own. We all wanted "spider bikes" like his, and since we all worked (I was working full-time as a busboy then, usually 60 hours a week), all of us ended up buying replicas of some type. When we would jump our bikes off the 2-foot curb on Allen Place, or ride them at full tilt between the hedges in the old lady's yard, we didn't wear helmets. We got bumps, bruises and chipped teeth, but nobody died. Today, you might have to wait an extra year for your driver's license if you got caught not wearing your state-mandated, DOT-approved headgear, and your parents would owe a hefty fine.
One last memory: my best friend, Artie, had a great basement with an extra layer of concrete on one wall. In front of that, we set up some padded plywood. At various times, 4 or 5 of us would go down there to shoot. It was our rifle range, where we'd fire anything from BBs, to pellets, to .22s. We had all been trained by our (mostly WW2 or Korean War vet) dads in gun safety and marksmanship, and we were very careful when shooting. All of us owned guns, as did just about every one of our fathers. I had a nice little Italian .22, which I also took out to the old quarry to shoot about every other week.
In 2007, to purchase a gun, especially a revolver or pistol, in New Jersey is just slightly less difficult than getting licensed to do open-heart surgery. Applications, fees, background checks, criminal checks, examination of any violations of even traffic laws, cooling-off periods, all kinds of roadblocks. If you have it in your home, it's supposed to be unloaded and trigger-locked, with the ammo in a separate location. If you transport it, say to a (licensed) shooting range, it has to be unloaded, in a secure container outside easy reach, normally in the trunk. The 2nd Amendment doesn't authorize any such restrictions, but New Jersey's politicians long ago burned their copies of the Constitution, since it was cutting into their graft and corrupt practices.
In today's America, you are restricted in every activity undertaken. You almost need a permit to fart. Americans think of this country as "the land of the free", which would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic. We allowed a small group of alien manipulators to undermine our entire lifestyle, to the point that the country I am living in today bears almost no resemblance to the one I recall from just 40 years ago. We've been so conditioned, for so long, to accept our chains that we don't even realize we're shackled. And the U.S. is not alone, although it's the most prominently controlled. The media tells us to buy a new car, we accept the order, and put ourselves into debt slavery for four or five years. We get a new HDTV, we get a new reduction in our take-home pay. Politicians tell us a small, under-militarized, weathered country in the Middle East is an imminent threat to our security, and we barely look up from watching "CSI" or the football game as the war begins. So far 4,000+ of our kids have paid with their lives for this sleight-of-hand.
We are in the grasp of great evil, men who have no concerns whatsoever except for two things: money and absolute power. They control you at every level, from deciding where you'll "educate" your children, to whether you can re-occupy your own home after a storm, to how many will be allowed into a shelter in the event of air attack. For themselves, though, those limits mean nothing. They live in gated and walled communities, have access to secret Air Force hide-outs, own huge yachts in the Caribbean, and keep secondary homes in other, safer lands. Their kids go to exclusive private schools, isolated from the havoc their policies cause in the outside world. Their Swiss bank accounts are fattened by interest groups like AIPAC, keeping them pork-laden until their retirement and appointment to directorial boards.
Because of them, we only get to wave sparklers and brag about how free we are. They get to play with M-80s and laugh at us. At some point, if the lemmings awaken from their headlong march to oblivion, it will be time for us to be the grownups again, and put real, proper and permanent restrictions on the useless people in power instead.