Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The fight for the right: To drink

Most people think I shouldn't care about the drinking age. I'm 21 now, there is no need for me to have to try to get friends to buy me booze. Or use a fake ID. Yet why do I?

American society is derived from several different points. Faith, heritage, geographic location and many others all bring different aspects into our society, and lead us to all be “Americans”. Even our legislation decides the fate of our society. One in particular part that affects our society is the drinking age. Raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 has damaged our society and American culture as a whole.

On July 17th 1984, the United States passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. The act provided that, if a state does not raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21, they will 10% of their national highway funding. As the funding is a necessity for states, every single state accepted the act, and has since raised their drinking age to 21. While some states, such as New York and South Dakota have challenged the act, none have been able to overcome congress’s pursuit to keep the drinking age at 21 years of age. The government has decided that 18 was too low to allow individuals to drink, citing several issues such as the operation of vehicles at the same age, and health risks associated with alcohol and the developing human body.

It is commonly accepted that drinking and driving do not go well together. Every state, as well as most countries have explicit laws as to the consumption of alcohol and then operating vehicles. The United States Government has gone as far as requiring alcoholic beverages to contain a surgeon generals warning, that warns of the dangers of alcohol, and that you should not operate heavy machinery, or drink while pregnant. Individuals cited statistics showing that in states that had previously raised their age to 21, car crashes caused by intoxicated individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 decreased dramatically. These statistics were used to show that states that had begun to raise the drinking age, were able to save more lives, and stop many injuries of individuals on the nation’s roadways.

Also as of the age of 18, individuals become legal adults and are granted other abilities, such as the ability to marry. With marriage it is custom to also start procreation. Thousands of studies have proven the negative effects of drinking while pregnant. Fetal alcohol syndrome has risen as one of the most horrific forms of child abuse this country has ever encountered. Each year thousands of children are born impaired due to a mother consuming alcohol. In 1973 Fetal Alcohol syndrome was recognized as a syndrome. All of these reasons lead the government to pass the national minimum drinking age act.

No one disputes that increasing the age to 21 has decreased fatalities in the United States. However the raising of the national drinking age is with out a doubt one of the largest constitutional infringements this government has ever imposed on the people. The government continually sourced statistics and information about the number of fatalities raising the age to 21 has supposedly prevented. Nineteen. Nineteen is the average age of soldiers killed in Vietnam. While no statistics have been provided by our government as of yet as to how many of the 4083 deaths in Iraq have been by individuals under the age of 21, browsing through the list of casualties provided by the government, you can easily see that at least a fifth of the individuals killed, could not legally consume alcohol. How can a country tell its people that they cannot consume alcohol, because it is harmful and could lead to their death, yet send the same people to die in a desert, or in a jungle? But wait, drinking and driving may have other victims! Innocent individuals may also lose their life because someone was impaired by alcohol. That argument would work for the 84,099 confirmed killed civilians in Iraq. How can our government cite statistics about the decrease in deaths since the drinking age has been lowered, and support it, because it saves those 18-20 year olds lives, as well as other civilians, yet support a war that has killed thousands of Americans, wounded even more, and murdered thousands of Iraqi civilians, while wounding possibly hundreds of thousands. How can you patriotically serve your country, when they won’t offer you the same freedoms, just because you are of a different age? Why is the age 18 to join the military? Because 18 is when you become a legal adult in the United States. A legal adult to make your own decisions, get married, obtain a credit card, buy cigarettes and lotto tickets. Purchase pornography. You can do almost anything at the age of 18, except drink legally. At a U.S. Senate hearing last fall the deputy transportation secretary Thomas Barrett who has retired from the coast guard said, "I hear this bandied about that if you are old enough to fight for your country, you are old enough to have a beer. … I don't think it's the same type of maturity." Being given a gun, to shoot people and possibly get shot yourself, definitely requires less maturity than consuming alcohol. It’s only another humans life right?
The other argument provided for raising the drinking age, is the risk to pregnant women and their unborn children. While fetal Alcohol syndrome is a horrific tragedy, raising the age that you can purchase alcohol does nothing to prevent it. Passing a law preventing pregnant women from drinking would work at preventing this tragedy, but the government does not. They merely warn women that it may be dangerous, and AFTER they have given birth to a child with FAS, THEN they step in. Yet in the concern for fetus’s everywhere, the government has still not raised the age to purchase tobacco products, or passed any law to ban would-be mothers from smoking. Tobacco smoke has been proven dangerous to fetuses, and yet the government refuses to pass the same legislation as they did with drinking. Why? One can only speculate that Phillip Morris has deeper pockets than Anheuser-Busch. What about all of the women over 21 that have babies? According to the CDC not a single state has an average lower than 23 years of age, with most falling at 24 or greater.

So how does this put American society? We are already behind most of the developed world in education and health care . Why are we dropping ourselves into the ring of nations that bar human rights? Our political actions are often despised by other countries. We are seen as the bully of the world, but why? It’s due to our society. We are given these ridiculous restrictions and rules, to protect ourselves from ourselves. We are forced to abide by them under an iron fist of a government. The government continually destroys our ability to think for ourselves, to make our own decisions, and to responsible for our own actions. They are merely using the same techniques Hitler, Lenin, and Pol-Pot used, to brain wash people into becoming mindless drones that must always ask permission, must get the rights through the government. It may not seem much now, but as we become more and more dependant on our government, they have more and more control over what we do as a society. No developed country likes America, because we are not run by the people, as we often proclaim. We have allowed the government to take away our own rights in promise of saving a few lives. We can’t choose for ourselves, we can’t operate on our own anymore. It makes us all rely on the government, on their decisions, so we don’t have to make them ourselves. It has destroyed our once great society. We may be first world with technology and money, but we are third world when it comes to thinking for ourselves.
Jones, K.L., Smith, D.W, Ulleland, C.N., Streissguth, A.P. (1973). Pattern of malformation in offspring of chronic alcoholic mothers. Lancet, 1, 1267-1271.

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