Bartlett: The “You” Never Changes

Being drunk is not an excuse for violating moral or legal principles.

by Nicholas Bartlett | 9/27/18 2:10am

 “Yo, dude, check out this pic of what happened last night. I was so wasted, haha! I can’t even remember it.”

If you’re anything like me, something to this end has absolutely blessed your ears at one point or another. The “who” changes, sure; the “what” varies, certainly; but the sense of dopey pride behind the whole ordeal always (and I mean always) remains constant. These inebriated folk haven’t simply carried out the crime of stupidity — no, they’ve both committed said idiocy AND decided to regale anyone and everyone with tales of their inglorious conquests. They revel in actions which under any other circumstances would have warranted the titles of morally reprehensible, quite illegal, or a combination of the two. And I cannot seem to understand why that is. Why would anyone be so OK, overjoyed even, with the consequences of their drunken stupor that they would proudly bestow that knowledge upon any sap foolish enough to listen? Have we no shame?

Apparently, no. No we don’t. Drunken stupidity does not always catalyze a burning feeling of shame or regret. Instead it often ironically births a sense of zealous pride. Men and women alike look back upon these moments through a jovial, unabashed lens. But why?

I understand wanting to rejoice in tales of youthful misadventures. After all, one’s childhood mishaps derive from a biological immaturity and subsequent lack of understanding. But adult (at least, I pray they be adult) mishaps of the intoxicated ilk? The excuse no longer applies. Their actions are their own — from the very moment they first dared down a swig of the acrid, oft face-puckering brew to the crime (of idiocy) in question. And yet many individuals deem these actions as in no way, shape or form implicating their character.

“I was drunk” does not exclusively summarize their state of being. No, this very prevalent subset of the drinking population instead deems “drunk” to constitute a different person entirely, not just a different mindset. They disassociate “drunk you” from “sober you.” They act as if a few Pabst Blue Ribbons are capable of inducing mental mitosis and birthing a completely distinct personality — the patsy to our debauchery. And consequently, this allows the only shame felt to be that of the proxy. These actions, after all, were not their own; they’ve no reason to take pause before spewing forth the many legends of their “drunk conquests” at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (possibly even brunch). Worse yet, this trend rears its ugly head from coast to coast.

It’s understandable why many think this way in the US. Here, alcohol is nearly ubiquitous: it worms its way into the pages of novels, stars in nearly every-other commercial, serves as the key plot-device of many Hollywood productions and lies plastered atop even the billboards under which we drive. Getting drunk remains the monolith of American collegiate culture — legal or no. And when inebriation finds itself an integral component of the American cultural machine, rationalization of the resulting behavior is sure to follow.

Although I can place the cultural roots of our alcoholic tree, I cannot help but find it entirely reprehensible. My small hometown specifically — a land of cheese, booze and football — serves as an exemplar as to why. I have seen firsthand the underbelly of all that alcohol (that marvelous, socializing beverage) has to offer. It’s no paradise. Many spend their lives corrupting the air around them with the putrid stench of ethanol which seeps from their mouths. Friendships — romantic relationships, even — wither beneath the strain of reconciling their stupidity with their believed lack in agency. I’ve seen it happen to family, friends and strangers alike (both at home and at Dartmouth) After all, how can one apologize in earnest when the “I’m sorry” (admission of culpability) consistently arrives penultimate to “I was drunk” (excuse)? Both parties involved know darn well that such behavior would be impermissible in any other context, and it consequently reeks of disingenuity; it’s unacceptable.

Every morning, yet another solemn headline drudges across the screen of your morning news: “Family of three killed in car accident involving drunk driver.” And each and every time, the drunkard son-of-a-gun spews forth that same, pitifully toxic defense: “I was drunk.” Each and every time this warps the lens through which society views their action — as if a drunk crime is any different than a sober one. Each and every time, it disgusts me.

I understand that my points may come across as hyperbolic; that I posit anecdotes and nothing more. But such is not a matter of specifics. No, the issue herein lies within this injurious precedent of “disregarding responsibility” which people seem perfectly content to perpetuate. Any duality to the situation is fallacious. “Drunk you” and “sober you” have always been and will always be the same person. The latter exists as naught but a disparate — and, mind you, entirely self-inflicted — state of mind.

The notion that inebriation births an “other” on which one may pin the blame remains, thereby, as dubious as it is dangerous. Certainly, a few frat boys boasting of their drunken forays into the realm of petty vandalism will not annihilate society as we know it; but culture starts with the lowest rung — with the seemingly negligible. That is what must desire to change.

For so long as “I was drunk” serves as a viable defense, the same abhorrent behavior which batters towns like my own into an impaired, drunken stupor will continue to mar America and harm (be it via vandalism or physical assault) its people. No more excuses. Accountability must find its mark —irrespective of the number of Keystones which one has poured down your gullet.