"Total abstinence has killed thousands."
-Robert G. Ingersoll
"Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: They have completely disposed of all the favourite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished."
I find it difficult to believe that in the 21st century, in arguably one of the most "liberal" states in the union, prohibitionism is alive and well. As a native Chicagoan, I have never understood Minnesota's alcophobic tendencies. I would like to think that Andrew Volstead and his body-nazi ilk was just a fluke -- a mere blip on an otherwise progressive trajectory of increasing liberties and lifestyle choices embodying the true intent of this nation's founders, almost all of whom publicly and repeatedly professed their fondness for strong drink. Unfortunately, however, Volstead's ideological spawn are still running amok, extinguishing the burghers' cigarettes in their own cocktails in the name of moral rectitude.
It has taken me the better part of 14 years to come to terms with Minneapolis' irrational fear of booze. Arriving at the neighborhood liquor store on my way home from work only to find the doors locked and the lights off was a frequent occurrence. Repeatedly checking my watch and scratching my head in bewilderment that the store was closed while it was still light out must have been a source of comedy to my more acclimated cohorts. But it was no comedy to me when, yet again, my healthy beer-thirst went unslaked due to the prying concerns of the Moral Minority.
The unacceptable alternative, of course, is to piss away my hard-earned cash in some television-bedecked shithole surrounded by a sea of backward baseball caps and Coors Light ice buckets trying to make sense of Wendell Berry while slurping flat, overpriced Summit. The other, slightly less unacceptable alternative is to plan ahead and lay away a large stockpile for just these occasions. But time, money and logistics frequently foil this plan. Besides, doesn't such planning promote abusive drinking? As Harvard drug researcher, Dr. Andrew Weil observes, "the laws designed to solve the drug problem are the drug problem." The long Saturday night lines at every liquor store in town seem to illustrate this point.As Mencken observes above, our moronic flirtation with prohibitionism has had some inadvertent benefits. Among these is the emergence of the cocktail. You see, during prohibition, many imbibers turned to less palatable forms of alcohol, which required the addition of fruit juice or soda pop just to get the stuff down one's gullet. This trend quickly spread to the "speakeasies," where drinkers attempted to conceal their consumption by disguising their drinks as cokes. So the next time some haughty European attempts to ridicule America over Prohibition, just point out that the Pimm's and Lemonade that s/he is sipping is the unlikely result of American puritanism.