Prohibitionist Tendencies

by Kyle B. Teamey | 11/18/97 6:00am

Part 1: The creation of the United States is interesting in that the country was essentially founded by Puritans and criminals. Though many groups have added to the mix since its inception, our country shows the influence of these two forces throughout its history. Occasionally the criminals won out, taking the Puritans along for a ride, as with the genocide and displacement of Native Americans, and sometimes the Puritanical side of America dominates, best demonstrated by Prohibition. These two faces of our nation, our yin and yang, continually oscillate back and forth in their perpetual wrestling match for control of our hearts and minds. Life being what it is, neither side is essentially good or bad; they can spawn either growth and understanding, or chaos and destruction. One area in which these forces have reached an impasse and the one in which I am interested in speaking of is alcohol policy.

When I turned 16, I was given the right to pilot a vehicle weighing several tons at up to 65 mph on public roadways. When I turned 18, the lawbooks said I was an adult. I had all the rights and responsibilities of a U.S. citizen and could be legally executed for not living up to my responsibilities. I could gamble and bought my first lottery ticket. I could buy cigarettes and give myself cancer. The Gillette company sent me a free Sensor razor with the message: "You're a man now, go shave." I went to the post office, like all 18 year old American men must, and signed a piece of paper that said I was willing to sacrifice my life in defense of this country. I could run off and legally get married. I could run for office. I was a man!

Oh yes, but if I asked for a beer at the local bar, I would be thrown out. Sorry, son, you can die for freedom, but you are not responsible enough to drink. This brings me to imagine the following scenario: You are a happily married 19 year old with a job, a house, a car and a child. There is a war on American soil, you are drafted and sent to the front. You fight a desperate battle, killing other men, watching your comrades die. After several months, the war ends and you are given leave. You go to a rear area and walk into a bar. Seeing your uniform, the bartender erupts, "Thank God you saved liberty for us all!" before adding, "Can I see some ID, please?" Perhaps farfetched, but, by American law, it could happen.

Here on our home turf, at Dartmouth College, the law books obviously apply. If you are an 18-20 year old student, you could be shipped off to a war, but you better not try to sit down in Lone Pine for a Guinness. Despite the rules regarding alcohol, underage drinking not only exists here, it is prevalent. Prevalent to the extent that the College places a high priority on controlling it. We live in a society that is thoroughly immersed in alcohol. Archaeological studies indicate wine was invented before bread. Alcohol is a deeply imbedded part of our culture. As we grow up, we see it everywhere, but are kept away from it. When you are seven and ask your father why he drinks beer and you can't, the reply is often "because it's bad for you," as he takes another sip. Everything from advertisements to the hypocritical responses of our elders tells us to drink, yet we are not allowed to. It is the forbidden fruit of young adults. You get to college, and suddenly you are free from the restraints of parental supervision. You are on you're own as an adult for the first time in your life, and alcohol is readily available. Once in this situation, a large percentage take advantage of it and drink, doing something the world around them has told them to do as far back as they can remember. One problem: it's illegal, the law has been broken.

Enter the College as an educational entity. The new College Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CCAOD) report cites upholding alcohol consumption laws as something that must legally be done, and done for the benefit of our education. It is the moral and ethical duty of the college to deal with these youngsters and their penchant for imbibing the drink. A strategy is created for dealing with the perceived problem. What is a centralized "high risk" environment for underage consumption of alcohol? Ah-ha! CFS houses. A recommendation is made by CCAOD to the Dean of the College on new rules and regulations that could be used to curb the abuse of alcohol distribution laws at CFS houses. This is where things get interesting, however, because these regulations often break the law themselves.