In praise of quiet

Tonight we shall be bombarded by the bloody racket of those blasted, blasting gunpowder follies known as “fireworks.”

(Alas, not the Stravinskian variety. A pity.)

Not only are they an unabated nuisance that literally frighten some birds, pets, and wild animals to death, but they are also a harmful pollutant to water, air, and land. (This year, we’ll be able to find out just how harmful various types of fireworks are.) They are almost all manufactured by child laborers in Asian and Latin American countries.

Most civic institutions have cancelled their fireworks shows this year. Jolly sensible, and something I hope should continue past the socially distanced era of Covid-19.

I wish people would take more care of their aural health. We live in an obscenely loud era. Sounds are blasting at us from all corners, every day. As far as I’m concerned, the worst offenders are the power tools driven by gas motors: cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, airplanes, seaplanes (a particular nuisance here in Seattle), lawnmowers, power washers, power tools, weed-whackers, and my most hated of all, the leaf blower.

Why do leaf blowers gall me so? Perhaps it’s something about their particular frequency, but I think it’s more the fact that their job is so easily replaced by the humble rake. (You could say the same of the lawnmower of course — all one really needs is a scythe. Read Anna Karenina, people!!)

And let’s not forget the “flash-bangs” employed at the protests recently. These are getting less attention than the tear gas and rubber bullets (and perhaps rightly so) but those things can cause permanent hearing damage. Of course, it’s entirely possible that cops and protesters alike routinely subject themselves to grotesque levels of volume at amplified music shows, but that’s another story.

And here’s an idea for Elon Musk: instead of sinking your billions into space rockets, why not make a Tesla for electric airplanes? I guarantee you that would advance the cause of humankind a hundredfold over space exploration.

So many diatribes (and I haven’t even mentioned by neighbors’ dog yet.) I used to lodge these noise complaints on Twitter, but I’ve recently renounced the tweet as a mode of expression. Twitter, it seems to me, is part of the same problem. Has anything that is technically silent ever been quite so loud?

Gentle readers, I bid you this fourth of July, at the very least, not to set off any firecrackers. That’ll earn you a passing C. If you want to go for a B, then do whatever you can to avoid singing or hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” easily the worst national anthem in the entire globe (right up there with “La Marseillaise.”) If you want an A, then be sure you’re grilling veggies on the grill instead of any dead animal carcasses.

And for those looking for extra credit, perhaps take a quiet moment to consider whether our violent founding is even worth celebrating at all. Don’t forget, had we not declared independence from the British crown, today we would simply be Canada, and our head of state would be that glorious monarch Elizabeth II. Vivat regina!