The Day After the Fourth

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Some laws are just unenforceable for better or worse but insurrection must be prosecuted

They say that the amount of air pollution after the July 4th fireworks extravaganza all across Los Angeles is about three to four times as bad as the air quality would be normally. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued advisories for increased particulates in the air for the days following Independence Day.

The amateur pyrotechnics aren’t relegated to just my part of the metropolis as it seems to be everywhere no matter how many times city leaders proclaim they’re “illegal.” From a vantage point looking north from Cabrillo Beach towards the rest of San Pedro and beyond, the spectacular display of explosives is quite astounding. I wonder if the Los Angeles Police Department or Los Angeles Fire Department responded to anything other than calls from people mishandling sparklers and firecrackers or improperly disposing of the explosive pyrotechnic materials.  It seems a bit delusional that on one singular day and the weeks leading up to and after are filled with loud explosions, setting off car alarms, scaring dogs and cats and perhaps rattling war veterans struggling with post traumatic stress. It’s damn annoying any way you look at it to have otherwise placid neighborhoods abruptly attacked by juvenile explosions.  It is a rebellious outpouring and a prime example of a law that can’t be enforced.

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As long as it’s legal to import fireworks and as long as some Southern California cities allow for legal sales there’s probably little that other cities like Los Angeles can do to stem the tide.  Years ago I contemplated just having the fire department set up free fire zones where the fire fighters might monitor and contain a certain amount of the activity and be on hand to supervise the event. That might contain some of it, but there’s something more beneath the exuberant July 4 lawlessness that’s akin to the American attachment to guns or women’s desire to exercise their right to an abortion despite what SCOTUS, their state government, or what they claim their position is on the issue. People are going to do what they need or want to do because they feel they have a right to do it!

Laws can only go so far if people don’t believe that those laws are fundamentally just and fair.  We clearly have a nation divided on guns on one side and female autonomy on the other.  However, both gun control and legal abortion seem to have overwhelming public support no matter what the rightwing majority on the Supreme Court opines. And their recent rulings taking away states’ right to control concealed weapons while giving all states the right to control  womens’ reproductive health in a whiplash of hypocrisy. Both seem suspiciously related to fundamentalist religious beliefs that should be separated by the church and state doctrine, which the court now seems primed to do away with entirely by allowing religious prayer on a Washington state football field.

People are not going to obey or respect these court decisions and I predict that just like the runaway slave laws of the 19th century there will be a new abolitionist underground railroad for women seeking abortions. Some are already calling these anti-abortion laws “Jane Crow Laws.” There will continue to be mass protests against gun violence and mass shootings, as the mass shootings continue.  And it may just come down to private businesses and entertainment venues simply banning guns from their premises. No guns will accompany no shoes, no shirts and no service signs either! 

The contradictions of all of this have vexed our nation from the very beginning — the conflict between freedom and liberty — asks the question “whose liberty and freedom from what and at whose expense?” Guns, like fireworks, are held onto by some in this country with a kind of religious ferocity that can only be viewed obscurely. It is best explained in the 2008 book by Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.  We are experiencing both a class and culture war that is exacerbated by  Donald Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court, Fox News and the Big Lie of the stolen election.

So as the gunpowder in the Southern California air begins to clear from the exuberant display of rockets and their red glare in a celebratory display of lawlessness, just remember it could be worse, far worse — Trump could still be president and the fascist mob could have been successful in attacking Congress.  At least for now their defeat is something to celebrate this Independence Day. But it’s a sobering thought the day after to realize how close we came to losing this republic to a tyrant.

At this point, only the conviction of Donald J. Trump for insurrection and adding three more liberal judges to the Supreme Court  will clear the air regarding our national conflicts and the toxic nature of our politics. But fireworks are probably here to stay.

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James Preston Allen, founding publisher of the Los Angeles Harbor Areas Leading Independent Newspaper 1979- to present, is a journalist, visionary, artist and activist. Over the years Allen has championed many causes through his newspaper using his wit, common sense writing and community organizing to challenge some of the most entrenched political adversaries, powerful government agencies and corporations. Some of these include the preservation of White Point as a nature preserve, defending Angels Gate Cultural Center from being closed by the City of LA, exposing the toxic levels in fish caught inside the port, promoting and defending the Open Meetings Public Records act laws and much more. Of these editorial battles the most significant perhaps was with the Port of Los Angeles over environmental issues that started from edition number one and lasted for more than two and a half decades. The now infamous China Shipping Terminal lawsuit that derived from the conflict of saving a small promontory overlooking the harbor, known as Knoll Hill, became the turning point when the community litigants along with the NRDC won a landmark appeal for $63 million.

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