The explosive substance we know as gunpowder was originally developed in China. The bright displays to expel evil spirits and bring good luck, we learned, could also be aimed at enemies and used to blow things up.
But what if we had never thought using it as a weapon?
I pondered this as we launched our illegal fireworks last night and listened as explosions from neighboring illegal fireworks shows reverberated off the hills.
What if we only used gunpowder for fireworks displays?
Chemistry classes would be more interesting, as every student would need to know how to mix varying colors and strengths before launching a final project at the end of semester showcase.
We could have a U.S. Department of Pyrotechnics, or a Department of Fireworks,, rather than a Department of Defense. We could complain that so much of our national budget gets used on fireworks, and not on important things such as health care or education. “The US spends more on fireworks than any other nation…”
We would have developed some rather massive fireworks, I’d imagine, to replace our missiles and nuclear weapons. Big enough to see miles away, for sure. That would be an annual show worth seeing.
Instead of wars, we’d have epic fireworks competitions. “The Soviet Union launched a secret fireworks show over the east coast of the US last night. Lots of smiley faces and whizzing crackling sounds. The president has vowed to follow up with a spectacular show over Moscow later in the week. He intends to use deep colors and a few tasteful floral patterns.”
Races would begin with the firing of a bottle rocket, not a starting gun.
Gangs would have drive-by displays, rather than shootings. Those launching the best colors and patterns overhead would have status.
Bank robbers would set off small displays to distract customers with “oohs” and ahhs” while they crack the safe and escape with the loot. “Did you see the person who robbed the bank?” ” No, but did you see the finale they put on? One of the best.”
If we had not thought up using gunpowder in guns, and only developed fireworks, we might have more firefighters, too. We’d likely need them.