This is Part Two of a report on my American Independence Day (Part one is “An Eventful American Independence Night.” It was posted on July 5th 2012.)
The best beach in Santa Cruz was cordoned off for the evening with plastic netting, and illuminated by powerful projectors. There were only a small number of narrow entry points where beach-goers were inspected individually for contraband. I don’t know if anyone was frisked but younger people were intimidated into answering questions they should not have to answer routinely according to my understanding of the Constitution. (I think law enforcement officers may not stop you at all without cause or probable cause.)
There were two kinds of contraband, possibly three. The first was obviously alcohol. Alcohol is outlawed on that beach at all times. I regret to admit that I think it’s a good policy. In the days before the prohibition, I had the feeling that the same beach was more dangerous to children. The “maybe” contraband would be weapons although I don’t understand by what authority a quasi-municipality, the harbor, and a county could jointly or separately restrict the citizens’ right to bear arms. Incredibly, it being the Fourth of July, Independence Day, the second kind of contraband was… fireworks.
Local government entities routinely ban fireworks for the Fourth of July. They ban fireworks in the towns were many houses are made of wood. They ban fireworks in brush and forest areas, reasonably enough. They also ban fireworks in the sand and on the water. Public safety specialists in the Santa Cruz area apparently believe that sand can burn and that the sea can go up in flames. Note that even the most fanatical local greenie will no affirm that the local seawater is so polluted that it will catch fire. (In fact, it ‘s not polluted at all, except very segmentally and only by concentrations of seabird shit. Bird dropping being natural, greenies should love them and not fear breathing them while swimming or swallowing them accidentally. But I digress in the most disgustingly self-indulgent manner!)
The local prohibition of fireworks makes me wonder how thousands of French villages, many quite a bit smaller than Santa Cruz, manage to offer a beautiful, complex fireworks to their citizens on Bastille Day, year after year. It makes me wonder why France has not yet been burned down to the tree roots and French beaches sand melted into glass. Of course, the French often have their fire department take charge of fireworks, even volunteer fire department. The system seems to work for everyone.
Someone will object that involving fire departments would cost money and that this is not a good time given that so many local entities are in dire financial straights. I don’t know about that. They did not rely on that obvious situation when they thought, and we thought, they were rich. And I don’t believe paying locally employed law enforcement officers time and half or more is economical. That’s not counting the private security employees hired for the occasion of this every labor-intensive endeavor. Why does the uncharitable thought cross my mind that providing overtime for public employees is one of the motivation behind the fireworks ban, possibly not a conscious one?
Later in the evening, leaving the scene in my truck was like moving across a city under martial law. There were law enforcement officers in the fog under the street lights at every crossroad directing traffic into unnatural patterns. One sent me into an eternal loop I could only escape by cheating. The police occupation continued much after the crowds had left the area.
A harbor guy I won’t name because it would be bad for this career confided to me that the real issue occasioning this vast deployment of armed force was concerns with possible mass rioting. I know a little the guy who said this. He strikes me as a reasonable person. He was not putting me on. This raises the question: Who would riot?
Santa Cruz is Silicon Valley’s beach town. Directly as my informer stopped talking I conceive visions of hordes of rowdy India-born hoodlums descending on my city, their pocket protectors bristling with non-pens pens of unknown usage. I could just see them in my mind’s eye sowing wi-fi havoc on our rudimentary 2010 !phones.
Or, maybe, just maybe, political correctness being what it is in this left-liberal region, this bastion of 1970s political culture, another fear underlaid the ban and the security measures. I don’t know that what came to my mind is true. It may just be speculation. Is it possible that the local authorities are afraid that the gangs from nearby towns such as Watsonville and Salinas would seize the opportunity of lose revelry to transform the beaches into battlefield where to continue their deadly wars ? Is it possible the same local authorities don’t have the internal fortitude to name the object of their fears? The problem is that upward of 99% of violent gang members seem to have Spanish surnames. Could it be that stating that they, the authorities close the beaches to contain gangs would be considered the sin of sins, racial profiling?
PS I like Santa Cruz Harbor a great deal. It’s this extreme rarity: a public entity with quasi-municipal powers that does not rely on taxes. It’s long overdue for my complimentary essay.
[Editor's note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix's blog, Facts Matter, on July 17th 2012]