Listen this article
Is improper use of fireworks a reality that is reported and passively accepted?
Without exaggerating, this is a theme to regret. With almost mathematical precision, every December happens the same in Colombia: hospital centers throughout the national territory report cases of people burned with fireworks, especially children. Again crying, pain and bitterness in a supposedly happy and hopeful time. The high volume of the traditional music of the time, the commercial promotions, the fairs and the tourist plans, the tradition of the novena of aguinaldos and so many varied elements of Christmas and the New Year in our country hide the lament of Families to whom parties are turned into a very bitter liquor because of a tradition that has proved to be, obviously, complex and disastrous.
Leer en español: Solo nos preocupamos por la pólvora en diciembre
However, blaming the fireworks for so many disasters suffered by Colombian families is as absurd as blaming the atomic energy of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both cases, two powerful forces get out of control by irresponsible human decisions when it is naively believed that everything is under control or that everything is justified. In the case of the Christmas tragedies caused by flying, sparkling, totes and other gadgets, much is said, much is proposed, many campaigns are made every year, in December, so that people do not use fireworks, but nothing changes. Why?
Also read: We must say NO to the Constituent Assembly
The newspaper El Espectador, in a column dated December 28, 2012, pointed out that the fireworks issue "is a dangerous act that was inserted into the Colombian culture as something every day that is done at the end of the year. As usual and seemingly candid as novenas or Christmas food it always comes in the form of bad news. We can see it in the streets, in the farms, in the neighborhoods, in the main squares. Everything revolves around entertaining watching the flying birds burn in the sky. No one thinks, until it happens, that the burn could be oneself. Or a child. Eradicating a behavior or an idea, when they are so rooted in the collective imagination, is quite difficult. Not only do we need media campaigns against the irresponsible use of fireworks or sanctions in court or even criminal, all useful to help curb a little-accepted attitude, but also need the internalization that something is wrong. That however accepted it is, it is reprehensible." However, there is a problem that hinders or prevents such internalization.
After December 31, January and February arrive so quickly that, colloquially, we say "the year is over". It begins in these months to put together the information agenda of the year and, as if by magic, children burned, irresponsible parents subjected to late pedagogical courses and adults who were maimed for manipulating gunpowder in a state of drunkenness (the mixture fireworks-liquor, oh my God) disappear from it, they no longer appear on the screen. The burned pavilions are no longer visited by the cameras and life goes on. The crying of the victims is extinguished, their stories are not heard during the following months. And when the year ends, they listen again to be silenced again until the following December ... It is a very, very vicious circle that has not been given enough attention.
We did not want to face a public discussion at a national level about a problem that, as it takes place at a specific time of the year, we underestimate or forget most of the time. We think that those affected by fireworks are others, usually ignorant and backward people who have no other more civilized way of demonstrating their joy, their virility or their courage (these three elements, culturally, are sold as things to be demonstrated in search of recognition). We believe that people burn with fireworks when they drink cheap brandy and not when they drink fine whiskey. We have not wanted to confront the inappropriate use of fireworks by citizens as a matter of public health that deserves full-time reflection in decision-making centers, in the academy, in places of worship, in civil associations. There will be people who will say: do not we have enough already with the discussion about the legality of drugs, about the sale of alcohol, about human trafficking, about the abuse of women, about the national soccer team? Well, precisely: they are themes that develop throughout the year. The theme of the fireworks, once in twelve months. We can not forget it on account of this seemingly small detail.
There is a lot of talk about violence against children and adolescents during most of the year (there is the memory here of Gilma Jiménez, a disappeared politician committed to denunciation and legislation in favor of the youngest, and of those who have decided to follow in her footsteps). If we take into account that the majority of victims of the misuse of fireworks are girls and boys, why not include this particular case within the campaign of awareness and concrete actions in favor of respect for them?
A mentality that seeks conspiracies everywhere would dare to say that behind the silence on fireworks dark economic interests must be found. Without being so novelistic, yes it is necessary to say that it is strange that it is given and that we get used to the burned ones of December so calmly until the point of which it would not be strange that we get to place them in the manger or under the tree like macabre ornaments. As pointed out by El Espectador, it is one of those details of life that are not understood until they are lived. Better to say, until they suffer.
I do not know how things are regarding fireworks and its misuse in other Latin American countries during December. It is worth saying that, in terms of writing this text, when in the Google search engine I wrote "burned with fireworks in Latin America", the vast majority of links made direct reference to Colombia. Only one mentioned a case outside the country, specifically in Honduras.
I hope my readers take a good time this year, in the middle of Christmas and end of the year "where I will hold them", as we say in Colombia, to think seriously about a problem that we really need to make visible if we want to find concrete and effective solutions. And that they act in this respect in the most sensible, responsible and committed way with their own well-being, with that of their loved ones and with that of society in general.
LatinAmerican | Carlos Novoa Pinzón
Translated from "Víctimas de la pólvora en diciembre: ¿Un problema de temporada?"
* The opinion of the writer does not represent the opinion LatinAmerican Post