Americans love July 4th. Although few know much of its true historical significance, everyone knows that there will be hotdogs and fireworks.

This morning (July 2nd) the holiday was previewed by a headline “Man loses hand in firework accident only for it to be retrieved by a nurse’s DOG three hours later.” It happened in Chicago, the murder capital of the U.S., and the “body part was found about 250 feet away at [the man’s] residence and was blown off with a firework equivalent to a half-stick of dynamite.” A nurse had been awakened by the explosion and, being in Chicago, she thought it was one of those normal gunshots that occur daily. When she let her dog out for a walk in her yard later, he returned with an object in his mouth that she thought might be a rabbit. But when she went to get it from her dog, she found the object was the missing part of the man’s hand.

Now normally on or after July 4th the people who blow off parts of their hand or head are not even mentioned in the local papers. It was the dog that brought us the news—he helped us know what had happened and, perhaps sadly, he didn’t even get to eat the hand that could have fed him. But holidays aren’t for the animals, and it is we humans who get to blow up things.

On the 4th of July (or especially on New Year’s eve), as soon as it gets dark, the fireworks will begin. We have seen them in many states in the U.S. and they are always much the same: there are the ones that shoot into the air like rockets with a loud scream before the inevitable explosion that sends streamers into the sky like “a spherical break of colored stars”. One variety, called the “Chrysantemum”, is like a rocket exploding except that its stars trail off into sparks. Another variation is the “Willow”, which leaves trails of silver and gold stars, with the effect of a weeping willow.

Other variations are the Horsetail (guess what that looks like), Fish, Spider, Palm, Crossettee (looking something like a tic-tac-toe board that has gone berserk), Kamuro (named after a Japanese hairstyle), and Rings, which, amazingly enough, looks something like rings.

All of the assortments are in colors, a variety of course, which make it difficult for people who are color blind to appreciate the changes that take place. For the color blind, the color patterns are all dull grey. This is the case even when they are looking at traffic lights. However, there they know that the color on top means ‘stop’ and the one on the bottom means ‘go’ and the one in the middle means ‘take a chance’. There is no such help with fireworks.

The practitioners of fireworks should be more accommodating to the color blind, a minority group that deserve laws to protect their rights. It is not their fault that they can’t see colors—they were born that way; it is a genetic defect that Darwin should have predicted. Why don’t animal-rights groups and the ACLU take an interest in helping our color deficient population? There should be marches and flags (gray ones would be best), burning stop lights, and suing government optometrists. We are supposed to all have been born equal and firework displays are not equal. It is like people who can’t speak English and need an interpreter. “That one is a Kamaru and has left a bright red glittery trail. Imagine a hairstyle like some of the NBA basketball players have only make it yellow and blue,” says the translator.

Of course, the color-blind person living at the edge of a full color universe will not be able to imagine the colors he (or she—some women who wear very bright clothes are said to be color blind) has never seen.

It will also be especially difficult for the hard of hearing, the auditory impaired, to enjoy the fireworks. They will be lucky to hear the hiss of the rocket or the explosion of the Kamuro. While others are jumping up and down with excitement and saying “wow” and “did you see that?”, they will be sitting there with a spaced-out look on their face, wondering if it is going to rain because the clouds look so dark.

We have a problem America: We are supposed to be celebrating our Independence from Great Britain and all we can do is stare a fireworks and burp with indigestion from the hotdogs. We have lost something important from our history and we don’t know what it is.

Another annual event is the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island in New York City. This year the surprise winner from last year, Matt Sonie, will face off, so to speak, with Joey Chestnut. These two competitors are a cut above the rest and last year Stonie won by eating 62 hot dogs. However, Chestnut, who had gone undefeated for eight consecutive years holds the world record for eating 69 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes. And this year he did even better—70 dogs in 10 minutes. He said it was Sonie’s fault because “He aroused the sleeping dog within me.” Stonie could manage only 58 before throwing up.

There are also two women competing, but there are no figures on how much they weigh. One of them is Sudo who last year ate 38 hot dogs, somewhat less that the woman known as “The Black Widow”, who ate 45 dogs.

Chestnut also has won every “Mustard Yellow Belt” since 2007 and also holds 38 International Federation of Competition Eating records, “including chili, jalapeño peppers, pork ribs and shrimp wontons.” Chestnut also uses some water to soften the buns before he gulps them down. That is apparently fair, as stated within the International Frankfurt Eating Rules, although there is still discussion on the practice of using water from Flint, Michigan, where the iron and arsenic content may help or hinder the contestant—the United Nations Rules Committee is studying the issue and will publish a report “in a year or two”.

There are also patriotic parades of all kinds today: jeeps, trucks, vans, motorcycles, bicycles, floats, and pedestrians, all with American flags bedecking them. Everyone must wave a flag or they will be disqualified. This is no joke and almost happened to two friends of ours who were here visiting from Australis. Some good natured patriotic people were passing out small flags and demanding that we wave them. Jeff, our Australian friend, was not about to do this stupid American thing, when suddenly he saw three burly police people approaching. He started waving his little flag, feebly at first, but more intently as the cops go closer. Then we thought we heard him saying “The Land of the Free!”, “The Land of the Free!” and we were delighted. Later, however, he claimed he was saying “I am an Auss-ee!”, “I am an Auss-ee!” I am hard of hearing, so I don’t know for sure, but the police simply stared at him and walked on by.

It is time for the finale of the fireworks display. Fifty canons will shoot off continuous rockets and rings, spiders and fish into the sky. The bombardment will go on for 15 minutes and this year it will cost the city three million dollars. That is almost a million more than last year but we have been told that it can be covered easily by raising the taxes on property and Dr Pepper.

And even a color blind observer will be over-awed by the final display of circles, rings, horsetails and willows streaking across the sky in living black and gray. Who could ask for more?

The city taxation office, of course.

July 4th, 2016