Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bingy Benji

I have been marveling a little over the news story regarding a large group of small, liberal arts colleges who are pushing to have the legal drinking age moved from 21 to 18.

How do I feel about this?

Firstly, let me quote a gone-too-soon soulster, Aaliyah, by saying "Age ain't nothin' but a number." I believe there are many really responsible 18 year-olds. Conversely, I believe there are many hot messirresponsible 3721 year-olds.

So from my perspective, drinking has nothing to do with age, but a lot more to do with personality and, even more significant, reflecting what's beneath the surface. Admittedly, turning 21 was a sort of non sequitur event for me. I'd already developed my party muscles by that point. I had even personally written letters to my congressman bemoaning the drinking age and, not originally, pointing out the inherent discrepancies compared to other coming-of-age responsibilities like military draft and right-to-vote. Most of this was inspired by a relentless military recruiter who wouldn't stop calling me - to the point that I lied and told him I had been in rehab for a cocaine addiction, which seemed to do the trick in getting him off my back. Hey, if you can ship me off to some abysmal military post I should be able to have a little shot of Jack Daniels every now and again. What's fair is fair, right?

I know many under-21's who I wouldn't worry about as legal drinkers. Unfortunately, they're far outnumbered by those who are ridiculously irreverent in their drinking practices. From my sampling group, however, those who scare me the most are the over-21 crowd who make really impaired decisions in the name of the party. I have certainly made some of those choices in my past. I reflect on them often and am thankful I've not injured anyone, or myself, and routinely vow to stick to the mid-range unless I'm in a contained, safe environment where I still might attempt to raise the roof. In doing so, I've become even more keenly aware of the actions and behaviors people model as their blood alcohol content increases. Be the DD one night, or limit yourself to two light beers, and just watch. It's a powerful, sobering (no pun intended) experience.

I also believe that children model the practices of their role models and influencers, so as adults it's our job to set good examples (not me). When we think of foreign countries where drinking is an ingrained cultural practice - I think of Ireland, England, Germany - the cultural outlook seems to be that drinking is good and more people should do it. In America, we recognize it's a high-stakes risk, with abundant potential for abuse. Historically we've attempted to outlaw drinking, and in many places (my town included), we still place limits on accessibility by denying anyone the opportunity to purchase alcohol on a Sunday.

I wonder if that's because of the high degree of drunk driving injuries in America, where driving is so much more an ingrained way of life? If we all could walk or take mass transit to the corner pub, would we drink more, viewing it less of an event and more as an ingrained way of life?

My experience in the Mediterranean was that wine consumption is par for the course and I don't recall many locals staggering around after too many Purple Hooter Shooters. Is that because everyone is numb buzzed from wine, or is it that they're immune to its effects, or just not programmed to think of drinking alcoholic beverages with an end-goal of getting hammered?

In conclusion I believe many, many college age students routinely get around drinking age limitations, I am inclined to believe that by 21, nearing the graduating age, a person is more of an adult and more prepared to make decisions regarding alcohol consumption. 18 is too young to legally cut your drinking teeth. Suck it up, liberal arts colleges - you hotbeds of white people partying - and don't legally endorse behaviors and practices that run the risk of harming people.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I hate to say it, but I would like to see a return to beer and wine at 18, liquor at 21. What we see in Chapel Hill is a butt load of binge drinking anything they can get their under aged hands on. Why? Because they don't know when they'll have the chance again.

The law hasn't reduced the problem, it's driven it underground.