Drunk or Sober
DURING LUCIA’S LAST ethics class, she had dealt with temperance and the importance of when or where or how much of drinking alcohol would make sense. Her new newspaper column was dedicated to Mathew, the son of one of her students in that class. Drunk or Sober
Have you ever wondered why the legal drinking age in the United States is twenty-one years old? Eighteen-year-olds can enlist in the armed forces, vote, get married, have children, go to jail for life, run his or her own business, and even become very rich. So why can they not drink alcohol legally until the age of twenty-one?
All of these questions were the theme of one of my philosophy lectures. The students offered their points of view and spoke of alternatives that mixed philosophy with religion and politics with history. A new student, an older student, eventually stood up and filled the room with her firm, stern voice.
Her name is Mary, and I remember precisely what she said: “If you allow me, I am going to tell you why in the United States the legal drinking age is twenty-one.
“We all know that many young people make the choice to drink several years earlier than the law permits. But what most of us don’t know is that the brain is not completely developed until after the age of twenty or twenty-one. If you have not yet developed the capacity to reason and think critically, then how can you effectively consider how you will operate under the influence of alcohol?
“The school of medicine at Colombia University in New York participated in a series of investigations that concluded that people who start drinking between the ages of fifteen and twenty years of age run the risk to become lifetime alcoholics at twice the rate as those who start drinking after they are twenty-one years old.
“Don’t say that people drink because they drink, as if you were saying that people study because they study or buy a car or go on a date. Any of these choices represent maturity and responsibility. To drink alcoholic beverages is not a norm because those that get drunk need to know that their behavior is not acceptable because alcohol has already altered their chances for a good and happy life.
“It has been nearly twenty-seven years since my son Mathew was born. We named him Mathew because that name means ‘given by God.’ Mathew grew up being a great kid, a great student, athletic and progressive. While young, he volunteered his time in all kinds of projects for our community. He studied very hard in order to be accepted at the Naval Academy. Unfortunately, all of his expectations of a happy life were destroyed by a drunken man with a license suspended five times.”
At that moment, the classroom was filled with quiet echoes of grief. Mary stayed quiet for several seconds, as did the entire class. It was as if everyone present shared a moment of silence on Mathew’s behalf. After those long seconds, Mary continued telling everyone about alcoholism and its consequences. Now, in every person’s heart, each word Mary spoke was now dedicated to Mathew.
“Did you know that the half of the young people in the United States drink alcohol? The National Center of Addiction and Drugs at Columbia University tells us that alcohol kills 6.5 times more young people that any other addiction to drugs.”
After Mary finished, she sat down, and I continued my lecture, telling them that we need to change our social norms so the mothers like Mathew’s mom don’t have to suffer the deaths of their children because of the irresponsibility of the drunk driver. If we change those norms, we won’t incur all the expenses of trying to cure the sickness caused by alcohol.
Commit yourselves, those of you who are not yet twenty-one, to stay away from alcohol. Know that is better if you don’t start. And those of you that are of legal drinking age, if you choose to drink, drink responsibly.
I would like to add other statistics to Mary’s comments. Did you know that adolescents illegally consume 17 percent of all alcoholic beverages sold? And alcoholic beverages consumed by the adult public generate more than $23.8 billion dollars in sales? Now you can see why the alcohol industry can pay for all those ads in magazines and on television, convincing the youth of our country to drink alcohol. They persuade ironically with an image of alcoholic consumption that suggests it is the way to better health and happiness, the same way that the tobacco industry works.
Thus, my dear reader, I hope that you can persuade yourself or your minors to stay away from alcohol and above all from drinking and driving.
As always, yours truly, Lucia. Con Amor!
Completing her column, Lucia wished it could be published time and again so those that did not read it today could read it tomorrow.