Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drinking and The Deadwood Effect

Party Pit - The Hold Steady (mp3)
Drinkin' Problem - Lori McKenna (mp3)

How many people you think the people he talked to have talked to by now? I guarantee at this minute my whole fucking action downstairs is fucked up, and nobody's drinking and nobody's gambling and nobody's chasing tail. I've got to deal with that. -- Al Swearengen, Deadwood

Gotta hand it to the Amethyst Initiative.

Once again, an "elite" and "educated" and "intelligent" people have coagulated into one collective and made some wildly insane suggestion to an American public that prefers to remain "unelite," "uneducated" and "unintelligent." In other words, we're sure you've got your high-fallootin' reasons for coming up with this idea, but you're too snooty and smart, and we don't heed advice from geeks.

What's the Amethyst Initiative, you ask, other than a kick-ass name for a fantasy football team? It's a group of college and university presidents and chancellors who have united to propose lowering the legal drinking age back to 18.

These are people who are forced to spend a much larger percentage of their time contemplating the risks and dangers of alcohol use in young adults. And these discussions, these experiences, have them inclined to believe 18 is the right age. Is it because they're sick of policing the problem? Is it because it's a law that is so proudly and constantly broken that it encourages kids to have less respect for the law? Do they hope to remove some of they worshipful myth of alcohol? (Actually, they do a pretty good job of answering this on their site. You should go read it.)

One common thread with journalistic reports is to compare how the United States handles a societal ill compared to other civilized countries, as can be viewed in this CNN "iReporter" article. It's a natural thing to do, to compare apples to apples and ruminate on why one orchard deals with a problem better than another.

Why is it that Australia, a country not exactly founded under the most impressive of purposes, handles its liquor better than we do? How can the UK with its millions of pubs be that much more responsible than we are? How in the name of all that's holy can anyone claim that Russia handles its vodka more responsibly?

Yet, strangely enough, none of these countries have the same per capita deaths of younger adults due to alcohol-related issues.

Although I'm completely in favor of lowering the drinking age to at least allow 19 and up to drink (maybe 18 if you're drinking on a college campus and have a college ID or something), I'm not really sure even 20 years of such a law would tame our Girls Gone Wild, beer bonging, upside down melonball culture.

I believe this because of Deadwood.

Granted, Deadwood is only slightly more historically accurate than The Amityville Horror or Macbeth, but as in all great creative works of art inspired by reality, this great HBO show reveals deeper, harsher truths about our country.

Ours is a wild land. We're a wild people. In some ways, we white-ass pilgrims brought civilization to the untamed expanse. But in others, the untamed expanse made us wild. Don't mess with Texas. Don't tread on me. Outta my cold dead hands. Shoot first, ask questions later. We love our tough talk, and we love our tough leaders.

Even me, the wussified, girly-man who prefers loving to fighting and negotiation to nukular aggression, found myself loving outlaw cutthroat businessman Al Swearengen more and more with each season of the show. In season one, I rooted fully for Seth Bullock, the lawman with a slight anger management problem, and feared, nay loathed, Swearengen. But the farther along the series goes, the more you realize Swearengen (as depicted in the show) isn't amoral or even completely unethical. He's brilliant, and he has adapted his own laws and priorities to the wild and untamed civilization in which he lives.

We don't particularly like laws or rules, kings or dictators. We like things the way we like 'em, and screw you if you wanna try to tame us or confine us.

When your entire country is born under such conditions, how can we expect to be anything less than what we are: gun-totin', whisky-swiggin', 2-minute sex with multiple partner-havin', flag-wavin' yahoos.

Legalizing alcohol or lowering the age limit won't curb the binge drinking. Not much, anyway. Legalizing drugs won't decrease drug use, although it might make the underworld a little less violent. Taking away guns probably won't keep us from shooting a whole heap o' people every year.

We is what we is, methinks.

"Party Pit" is from The Hold Steady's album Boys and Girls in America. "Drinkin' Problem" is from Lori McKenna's album Unglamorous. Both are available at iTunes and's mp3 sites and should be purchased forthwith if'n you c*#ksuckers know what's good for ya.


Bob said...

I'm fuzzy-headed this morning (from TOO MUCH sleep--thanks be to God!) but I'm thinking when we lowered the speed limit, people drove slower. They still drove faster than the speed limit, but they did drive slower. There's an analogy there that I can't quite figure out. People would drink slower????

What I really wanted to say was that "Party Pit," which you put on a New Orleans mix, is the song that led me to buy everything The Hold Steady has ever done.

Bob said...

Okay, maybe this is what I wanted to say: if you're right and we can't reinvent ourselves in some key ways as the collected people of this nation, we are screwed!

Billy said...

Point taken, and ultimately that's why I'm comfortable with and support a change in the drinking age.

However, it strikes me as a little tough to swallow that a government known for it's two martini lunches -- psst! Most martinis are a binge drink in and of themselves! -- and who grew up in a Mad Men world where it was OK to keep the liquor on display in the corner of your office, are going to all of a sudden go the "Kids these days..." route and suggest binge drinking is some kind of newfangled dire problem invented after Michael Jackson turned white.

Daytimerush said...

1.All in all it isn't such a bad place to live. (other than the gun-totin')
2.A martini is not a binge drink.
3.I'm in the "let's lower the drinking age" camp. (elite, educated, intelligent people must stick together)

Bob said...

Some forward-thinking businesses like Kanku's have already begun selling to underage drinkers.

Maybe the working people will solve this problem themselves and keep the government out of it!