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This article is a response to recent Desert Lamp discourse on strict alcohol policies in the United States.

Former Daily Wildcat opinions editor and current blogger, Connor Mendenhall responded to Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer’s concerns about underage drinking:

And I thought it was bad when President Shelton brushed off the Amethyst Initiative. We don’t need yet another crackdown on underage drinking. We need sensible alcohol policy that treats students like the adults they are.

Connor seems to have a lot of faith in college students’ “adulthood” even though alcohol isn’t known for bringing out the most mature sides of people. From my experience, college aged individuals can be anything but adults, so why reward them with alcohol simply because they’re old enough to order a drink at a bar?

Two commentators have “sensible alcohol policies.” First, there’s Matt from Critical Political:

The sensible alcohol policy is to start from day 1 not treating it like mysterious forbidden fire water, and to let people make their own decisions about it from an early age. Our drinking policies don’t do anything but hide it away and make people wild-eyed crazy about drinking because it’s the forbidden fruit.

Essentially, Matt endorses the European approach, which wouldn’t work in the United States. At present, our drinking laws seem rigid, so if we were to completely shift our laws to fit Matt’s idea, the country would slip into chaos. I predict many teenagers would abuse alcohol even more, and thousands of causalities would result in the first few years of the law. Drunk driving accidents would increase, more teenagers would need their stomachs pumped from binge drinking and alcohol poisoning, and more instances of alcohol-related date rape and unwanted sexual activity would be reported and unreported.

Eventually, everyone would mature and learn to adapt to the alcohol-friendly society, but would all the deaths beforehand be worth the policy change? I won’t tolerate more alcohol-related tragedies just so I can legally get trashed. It’s not a tough decision. If this law were on the ballot and I voted in favor of it, I would be encouraging dangerous alcohol abuse and contributing to more alcohol-related deaths. I couldn’t live with myself with that kind of guilt. It’s pretty selfish of anyone to support underage drinking when the law transition period would provoke so many otherwise preventable deaths.

My theory is speculative, but I have no doubts that an increased number of underage drinkers would perish in the beginning years of this policy.

Matt brought up another interesting but debatable point:

But part of the solution to naive youth is to make them not so naive with regard to alcohol. Make it part of their lives, make it public and they’ll be less likely to do terribly stupid things with it. Put a culture around it, instead of trying to hide it away and let it develop its own ridiculous culture.

With all due respect to Matt, I don’t think the alcohol-obsessed culture is necessarily right for the United States. The French and British may drink wine with most of their meals (aside from breakfast), but life is different in America. Most people don’t drink on their lunch breaks, and the United States work ethic is much more impressive. Do you really think we could maintain the same success if we welcomed alcohol more?

I’m going to get obliterated for this, but I don’t think it’s healthy to have a culture that revolves around alcohol. This is more personal than anything, but to me, it’s really sad that Americans want alcohol to be so accessible at all times. There’s more to life than being intoxicated, so why let alcohol further corrupt our society and center our lives around it? Is our society so damaged that we cannot be ourselves without the influence of alcohol?

Why conform to the spoiled children who drink because they love the thrill of breaking rules? Matt argues that teenagers won’t be “wild-eyed crazy” about alcohol once they’re no longer rebellious for imbibing, but this requires accepting and conforming to their illegal behavior. It’s like rewarding a child who throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants. Instead of letting him learn his lesson that he can’t have everything, his mother buys him the toy he threw a fit over, and therein lies the problem of enabling.

The lack of alcohol regulations “work” in European countries because the people are so set in their ways, and I don’t think the majority of United States citizens can all come to a general consensus about lowering the drinking age. The religious Right would oppose, and even if the country eventually decided together to change the drinking laws, teenagers would abuse the new freedom in the beginning. The end result of having a more alcohol-tolerant society is not worth the inevitable deaths and blood bath beforehand. People will die from alcohol anyway, but there’s no reason to fuel the fire.

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