DARE...To stand up and say something!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DARE...To stand up and say something!

I sat on this for a few months now, but I have to say something. The recent scuttlebutt about lowing the drinking age has opened the door to an important conversation about alcohol and the youth. As a homebrewer and as a relatively recent graduate of college, I have a unique perspective on this issue. I would like to take few minutes to let you know how I feel and open this up to response.

First off, what happens at 21 that makes someone so different? In this country, an “underage” person who is 20 years old is treated the same way as an underage person that is 17 years old. Both can drive and both are under the required age of 21 years. However, one of them is going to be giving free reign to buy and consume alcohol in 12 months where the other is still four years away from that important date.

It’s my opinion that we are creating young adults, that are going to be exposed to alcohol on a regular basis after their 21st birthday, that are not prepared to socially consume alcohol. These kids one day are hiding from police at house parties, binge drinking for a buzz, and treating alcohol like a drug used by junkies. The next day we open the flood gates and they can go out to a liquor store and buy any kind of booze or beer their heart desires.

Furthermore, everyone these new legal adults know people that are still under age. If a 21 year old buys alcohol for their 20 year old friend, they are serving alcohol to a minor. Besides not preparing these new adults for their professional careers, we’re setting them up to be criminals by the very system we perpetuate.

Now somewhere along the line, owning an establishment that serves alcohol became a despicable drug dealer instead of a go-getter entrepreneur. These business owners are presumed guilty if an underage person enters their establishment and buys alcohol with a fake ID. Never mind that when an underage person enters a bar under false pretense they are trespassing, it’s still the fault of the bar owner. This is just crazy. To take it a step further, if a bar is closed down due to under age alcohol violations in NYS, the next bar owner has to deal with the fines and violations as if it happened while they owned the property…but I digress.

Sadly bar owners are treated like drug dealers and thugs, while they instead create a safe, monitored alcohol consuming environment. Not like house parties, keggers, field shindigs and boat parties that are havens for alcohol related death, rape and just general tomfoolery. A bar has groups of adults, bouncers and the bar owner, that are all there with the job of keeping things in order. This compared to a house party where there is no one to limit access to alcohol or monitor someone who has had too much to drink.

Finally, I don’t think that the drinking age is the problem. To me, the demonization of alcohol is the real problem. We take kids, tell them it’s bad and horrible for 20 years, 11 months and then bang…suddenly its everywhere and it’s your right to drink as much or as little as you want. I’ve seen it at the colleges; I’ve seen it in the high schools. We’re not preparing young people to be adults. They treat alcohol as a drug where the only intent is to get fucked up. If an adult wanted to teach their child about alcohol consumption in a controlled environment, they would be labeled a horrible, irresponsible parent.

The treatment of alcohol in our current society (in regards to underage drinking) is eerily similar to the conditions that led to prohibition. Mothers fueled with righteous indignation screaming louder than the masses calling for further and further control of alcohol because it’s ruining our society and killing young people. MADD, SADD and every other ADD related group was always focused on fighting drinking and driving. The laws are now incredibly strict and police take the offense very seriously. So why are they continuing to push for further punishment of alcohol related offenses? Perhaps they should shorten things up from Against Drunk Driving to Against Drinking.

This is not a healthy balance and we are not preparing young adults for adulthood (in fact I would go so far as to call it a hypocrisy, but that’s just me). The key is not to keep them from alcohol, it’s to teach them to say no. If we can’t do that, we’re never going to be able to keep them from wanting it.

Ah, glad I got that off my chest. Cheers.

For more information, check out David Hanson Ph.D


Mark Tichenor said...

Hear hear! I appreciate our reasoning and agree with the concept that demonizing alcohol and presenting it as a taboo to our kids- a taboo that Mommy and Daddy break all the time, is no way to prepare them for responsible consumption on that magical 21st birthday.

But I don't see dropping the drinking age to 18 as a panacea either. The same kids that'll get blasted all the time when they turned 21 (and probably have been for a while before that) will just do it at 18, minus the diffiulties of getting shitfaced under one's parents' roof.

In addition to dropping the age, more appropriate alcohol education is needed; not just that drinking and driving will get you killed, but that alcohol is part of a global food culture, and most people enjoy it as part of their mealtimes or social periods in moderation.

Take the mystery/taboo away, and kids will be better prepped for that day when they "grow up."

Travis said...

I am not totally sold on lowing the drinking age. But I am glad that it's being brought up because this is an important conversation that needs to be had.

With that said, I think we should take a serious look at what effect the current drinking age has had on alcohol consumption between the ages of 18 and 21. My feeling is that we would all be surprised at how ineffective of a deterrent the current drinking age is.

In parts of Canada the drinking age is 19, we should perhaps look at what kind of impact that has had on their youth.

Thanks for the feed back.