Thursday, July 9, 2015

Explosives Make Poor Hats...

By now, most people have heard about the unfortunate young man from Maine who decided, as a joke, to put a firework mortar on his head.

Maine man dies after launching fireworks from his head
A 22-year-old man celebrating the Fourth of July was killed instantly over the weekend when authorities said he tried to launch fireworks from atop his head.

Devon Staples had been drinking with family and friends Saturday night in Calais, Maine, a small town near the Canadian border, when he put a reloadable fireworks mortar tube on his head and threatened to light it, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland told the Associated Press.
Now, first off, my heart goes out to the family of this young man. No matter what you think of the stunt, a man lost his life. Someone's son, someone's brother, someone's fiance has had their life cut tragically short. That it was a case of apparent stupidity, possibly fueled by alcohol, makes it worse - there is, quite simply, no reason for this to have occurred.

Some speculate that he thought the firework was a dud, that he picked it up and was goofing around when it went off. Others cling to the idea that he accidentally lit the firework with a cigarette. His mother wants to more strictly regulate fireworks, choosing to shift the blame to the inanimate object rather than the person that misused the inanimate object.

Hmmm. Where have we heard that before?

I think, though, that we have to step back and take a bigger look at things. Sure, to people with life experience, putting a high explosive right up next to your brain is a giant red flag, something we'd never do and would actively stop someone from doing. But look at it from the vantage point of a 22-year old manchild (and, honestly, 22 years old with no college and only time spent working at Disney? You're technically an adult but you haven't grown up yet).

He has spent his entire life in a cocoon of forced safety.

Let that sink in a minute. His entire life, things have either been mandatory or banned. Lawn darts? Too dangerous. Banned. Three-wheeled ATVs? Too dangerous. Banned. Helmets for bicycles, skis, roller skates, etc.? Mandatory. Backup cameras in cars? Mandatory. When he was a toddler, his parents probably padded all the corners, blocked all the outlets, and put all the cleaning supplies in the top cabinet. As a young boy, he was forced to wear helmets, pads, seatbelts, bright colored clothes, etc.

He's never learned what danger *is*. 

Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone's a winner. We can't keep score because then the losers feel bad. Feelings triumph over everything else, and we get so wrapped up in making everything "fair" that important lessons fall by the wayside. No one is allowed to fail. No one is allowed to make mistakes. No one ever grabs the handle of the hot pan and gets burned, learning the important lesson to listen to mom when she tells you to leave the stuff on the range alone.

I fear we will see a *lot* more stories like these.

Freedom is dangerous. It's messy. It's complicated. We can't legislate people into being responsible adults; we have to show them how to behave. You can't put a kid in a program to learn about the dangers of *everything* - too much of the world is dangerous. You have to equip your kids with the tools to make good decisions, and that's hard. It's a lot easier to blunt the scissors, to medicate with television and video games so that they stop asking the hard questions and stop seeking wisdom and knowledge.

We placate rather than educate.

Yes, he did something stupid. But put yourself in his shoes. His entire life, all the dangerous stuff has been kept far away from him. He's never been allowed to fail, never made a mistake that bit him on the @$$, never had something go horribly wrong that he had to fix. I'll wager he never had to change a flat tire or walk five miles to a gas station because he ran out of gas - the cell phone and AAA membership have rendered that life lesson obsolete.

It's easy to joke about Darwin and "stupid should hurt." It's harder to sit back and look objectively at the vast bulk of our society and realize that we're raising a generation who are going to do things just like this, simply because they've never learned otherwise. They've never taken chances, because they've never been allowed to take risks. If you take a risk, you could get hurt.

There has been a grave disservice done in removing all consequences from bad actions.

That is all.


Ted said...

First , This was a mortor tube. Not exactly the type of fireworks you can buy at the local fireworks-R-us tent. Individual mortors are professional grade. And they are open at both ends , The exhaust end goes in the sand box and the shell launches when lit and then explodes in the air.

The article is not clear but if this was a mortor that did not Launch, A misfire -- then it was unstable and just waiting to go off.

In any case, a clear example of regulations don't trump. " here --- hold my beer".

Anonymous said...

A very well thought out argument; hard as it is to comprehend for most of us.
I've encountered this sort of total disconnect with some work for a land trust here in Connecticut: teenagers show up to cut brush in shorts and flip flops. That thorns slash, rocks crush toes, and that chainsaw over there will cut anything? No idea at all.
It is one of the reasons that I wish more children had a real opportunity to work extensively with large animals. There is nothing like learning that gravity hurts and Mother Nature is not Disney from a cow or a horse.
What is most disturbing though is how it is growing from generation to generation. Speaking only from my own experience, my parents didn't ascribe to padded corners. I was pretty much on my own from 7 am to 7pm, usually in the company of horse (a decidedly unsafe one usually). I don't ascribe to padded corners either. On the other hand, my brother was in a structured set of programs as a ballet dancer. He was always with adults, always working in a program. Both of us were A students, highly motivated. He and his wife believe very, very strongly in padded corners.
One example does not a rule make, but it seems that the tendency towards scheduled, adult supervised children is combining with the ban/pad everything mindset of the parents to create an even stronger emphasis on looking to external forces for direction and security. It is a learned behavior that is being developed from birth. Scary.

Pumice said...

This is the kind of explanation of liberty that should be required reading before anyone is allowed to graduate from 8th grade. Very well said.

Grace and peace

Ted said...

Calais Maine is not quite at the edge of civilization but as they say, "you can see it from there." I'm not sure this is a case of a protected Snowflake since most kids in the area spend some time in the potatoe fields or the blueberry barrens or the pulp mills so plenty of exposure to heavy machinery.

Portland or Maybe even Augusta. Sure plenty of padding. But. Calais ..... No so much

Mark Matis said...

He obviously never spent any time with the local crowd at the lake at SR 5A in Brevard County, Florida...

Old NFO said...

Darwin won... Nuff said...

0007 said...

Never seen a mortar tube for launching fireworks that was/is open on both ends. For damn sure not the kind I have bought in the stores along the I-95 corridor. Why am I suspecting that this fool stuck one of the mortar bomb that is supposed to be launched via a tube launcher on his head(sans tube) and lit the fuse?