What is right and what is wrong seems so simple. But there are a handful of fiery and divisive issues that have caused battles for ages. There’s no end in sight. Beer, and more broadly–alcohol, certainly makes the list. We could take time to talk about the drinking age. We could talk limits on alcohol content. Rather, a USA Today article that appeared yesterday provides a modern day look at a microcosmic use of prohibition as the solution to a problem. Take a moment to read Battle over beer brews on border.
If it were as easy as shutting down the Jumping Eagle Inn, I’m sure that we’d have gone ahead and solved not only the issue of alcoholism on the Reservation, but also a number of other problems around this country and the world. I say that as a beer enthusiast, so what weight does my argument carry? Of course I want beer to be available.
But as a responsible human being, I’d rather skip the whole suffering of people scene. I’ve watched the ugliness that is alcoholism. The parent of a good friend. The gutter life of a veteran living on the streets. First hand, I saw the Reservation.
Alcohol isn’t the only problem out there. And banning it on, or around, doesn’t make the issue go away. I spent two years living on the Navajo Reservation, in Northern Arizona, where, like Pine Ridge, alcohol is banned. I did not live near the border, nor have a White Clay counterpart in my view. I lived in Pinon, near the Rez’s geographic center. It was a two and a half hour drive over rutted dirt roads to stock up on groceries in Flagstaff.
Did we see alcohol problems out there, so far from a White Clay? Yes. And pot and gangs and suicide and teen pregnancy and low reading levels and apathy. Was it a depressing place to live? Absolutely not. The people were wonderful. Many were concerned about important issues like this one.
From what I witnessed, here is what would happen if beer stores are closed down in White Clay: the problem marches on. As the article noted, people would simply move to other locations to buy beer. Problem not solved. More concerning to me is what I witnessed everyday that I lived on the Rez. There, I found roles to be oddly reversed from my own youth. When I grew up, we teens would beg older dudes to buy us a case of cheap beer. On the Rez, I saw old, alcohol-burned men beg teen-aged girls to buy for them. Buy what, you ask? Hair spray. Or vanilla or mouthwash. They were all behind lock and key.
Hairspray mixed with water, 7Up or straight is called Ocean, a helluva lot more damaging to a body than beer or wine or vodka. There was a hill not far from the grocery store called Mount Ocean. It was littered with hairspray cans beyond belief. That was a far sadder sight, in my opinion. And that is what we can expect if simply shutting down a few beer stores is the sole approach to solving the problem.
Unfortunately, it’s not just on the Reservations where people think this way today. There are many dry counties in several states. And there is Cary, North Carolina. Sean Wilson, from Pop the Cap, posted this not long ago. I happen to know Sean. While he spearheaded the North Carolina bid to nix the abv limit, he is also a very responsible, concerned citizen, on more than one level. Beer opponents seem to overlook the layers and depth to both people and policies. Brace yourself, then take a few minutes to surf this narrow-minded view.
That is scary.
Avoiding rash, unrealistic and irresponsible attempts at dealing with the problem of alcoholism might be found here.
Alcohol issues aren’t confined to the Reservations. There is a far broader mindset that needs to be dealt with in this country. Just saying no isn’t good enough. Education is key. Starting kids off with a positive and appropriate introduction to alcohol’s role is terribly important. Unfortunately, we’ve got a few adults to educate first. And I don’t mean the ones sleeping in the gutter tonight.