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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  September 2, 2008
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Topic category:  Other/General

The drinking age.

You may have heard. There’s a call for a debate about lowering the drinking age to 18.

It comes from the presidents of more than 100 colleges and universities across the country. Their position is that the current drinking age of 21 is widely ignored and actually encourages those not yet 21 to find ways around the law.

As you might expect, there’s opposition to the idea and, should a debate occur, it promises to be “lively.”

Some thoughts:

Let’s start with the obvious argument for lowering the age. It’s the one I remember from my teenage years. It goes like this: If, by age 18, I can vote, get married, drive a car, or join the military, then why the heck can’t I have a beer?

If I can’t, you’re basically telling me that I can start a family, elect a government, roam the highways, and wander around the world while being shot at, but I can’t legally raise a glass. Sorry, but that one didn’t make sense to me 40 years ago and it still doesn’t now.

Point the second. Alcohol isn’t evil. Never has been. It’s been around for thousands of years and has been used for relaxation, celebrations, and whatnot since we first learned how to make the stuff.

Too, were it evil, I think that the story told in John 2: 1-11 would never have made it into print. That’s the one wherein Jesus was at a wedding and Mary came over to tell him that the wine had run out.

At first, Jesus said something to the effect of: “Not my problem,” but Mary convinced him to help. At which point he turned the water in six stone pots into wine so good that it had the head of the household wondering why it hadn’t been brought out earlier.

Here, you should realize that those six pots weren’t pitchers. They each held two or three “firkins” of water apiece (think 9 or so gallons per firkin). That, gentle reader, is a lot of wine and, to my way of thinking, it couldn’t have been any kind of abomination in the eyes of the Good Lord if he produced that much of it at a party.

Yes, there are problems. Yes, it can be abused and yes, it can be part of the chain of events leading to terrible accidents. The problem, however, is not the alcohol. The problem is with humans who have, since the beginning of time, proven themselves capable of stupidity that beggars the imagination. There is where I believe we should place our efforts.

Growing up, alcohol wasn’t a mystery to me. Every now and then, my dad would bring home a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine. It was simply a refreshment and it tended to last a long time.

If I wanted a taste of either, I could have one. I quickly learned, however, that soda was much more pleasant. But I knew what alcohol was. I knew when they used it and why. The mystery had been taken out of the equation and that was a good thing.

My wife has an interesting take on all of this. She thinks that teenagers in this country should have a “coming of age” celebration.

She thinks that, when they turn 18, they should be granted full membership into society. This would include the privilege of voting, serving in the military, signing contracts, marrying, and - yes - enjoying a drink.

Setting this “coming of age” at 18 would also coincide closely with graduation from high school and would give us all those years to educate them as to what we expected in exchange for the privileges we were about to grant.

To be blunt, we’d teach them from grammar school on that if they did something incredibly stupid once we granted them these privileges we’d come down on them like a load of bricks.

So, mark me in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18.

Mark me in favor of granting them this privilege as long as we make the word “accountability” a big part of their vocabulary.

Mark me in favor as long as we adults make no excuses for them when they screw up.

Mark me in favor because accountability - taught early and applied rigorously - has been known to turn “kids” of all ages into responsible adults just about everywhere it’s been tried.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2008 by Larry Simoneaux
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