Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 16: A Sobering Day to Remember

January 16th, 1920: Prohibition Begins

I read an interesting piece in Playboy recently about "Sex in America", looking at how far we, as a nation, have come in the last 40-odd years. The story talked about TV families, like Lucy and Ricky, who loved eachother, but from separate beds. Then, there was the Brady's, snuggling together in a shared bed. Now, today, well you know.

I was thinking about that piece and how it relates to alcohol, more specifically - beer. 88 years ago, it became illegal to buy and consume alcohol in the USA. Clearly we have come a long way, but have we arrived to a place we should be comfortable with? I don't think so. Yes, the craft-beer resurgence is nothing short of fantastic for those of us who enjoy a good beer, but it seems we still rely on the industry's apologists to defend our enjoyment.

To drive this point home there was an interesting thread on Beer Advocate asking how beer enthusiasts "feel" when they talk about their beer consumption. It seemed that the vast majority of people replying to the subject were responsible consumers, having one or two beers a day; however, an alarming number of people seemed uneasy sharing their beer habit with others - those who wouldn't understand. Why is that?

Odd, isn't it? In 2008 America will celebrate, albeit quietly, the 75th anniversary of Prohibition's repeal, but how far have we come? In contrasting the comfort of our societies views on sex on TV (as PB pointed out, we see openly gay relationships, divorced, out of wedlock relations, flirts and - well, you watch TV), I find it a rare sight to see open drinking on network shows - with the exception of Medium, which seems to have a scene in every show with the husband/wife enjoying a beer in their home. Are we really more comfortable with sex than we are with alcohol? My gut says no, but my ears and eyes wonder. With shock jocks given free reign to talk about the sexual gossip of the day, it seems they only get in trouble when they 'promote' alcohol and tobacco. Sure, we saw the church rise up when Janet Jackson's nipple popped out on national TV, but that seemed to not really materialize into anything substantive. On the other hand, beer and spirits are watched carefully for any adverts that may attract underage drinkers.

Now, let me back up a minute here. As a person exposed to the church of America, I know there's just as much moral concern with regards to sexual morality - I feel, however, that the people of the church realize that they can't legislate sexual morality. That said, there's still a contingency who believes "regulating" alcohol is a good way to curve its consumption. In many ways I think that's why the church is opposed to the morning after pill, not to get into religion/sex/alcohol too much.

In fact, if you listen carefully to the arguments surrounding sexual deviance in the US (their words), you'll often hear off-based associations with alcohol - creating correlations where there ought not be. As pointed out here earlier, and by Jay this week, there are organizations out there asserting that alcohol consumption leads to rape, abuse and overall societal dysfunctions. Yes, right now they're an annoying voice in the wilderness, but the voices are heard and the assumptions felt by those of us who legally and ethically enjoy our alcohol.

80 years ago the same arguments were made, the same off-based associations with society's ills and alcohol. While we don't see an overt push to ban alcohol entirely, there are movements afoot that are aimed at curtailing your beer consumption - mainly in the form of tax increases and legislation that makes it more difficult to buy your beer. Yes, we have come a long way in 80 years, but don't forget that we still must make our case to the powers that be. For me, that signals we've still got a ways to go.