Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Coming of Age: Haven’t I Been Here Before’

Coming of Age: Haven’t I Been Here Before?

I turn 21 today, and I don’t feel the least bit different.

It was a surprise. I figured that tongues of fire would sweep down from the heavens at midnight, anointing me with the awesome responsibility to raise a glass of beer and allow the sacred liquid to cross my lips. But this was not divine law but Congress’ law – although the latter sometimes believes it is the former.

No, I didn’t develop some awesome sense of responsibility, suddenly become an adult or learn anything new (except, possibly, that one should say no to a Goldschlager at 2 a.m.).

I didn’t become responsible enough to carry a gun. That was in my early teens.

I didn’t become responsible enough to drive. That was when I was 17.

I didn’t become responsible to vote, to hold public office or to take up arms to defend and die for my country. That was when I was 18.

I suddenly became old enough to buy a glass of Miller High Life at the Tombs. Silly, huh?

Maybe it’s because I lived in London for six months last year, where I was free to go in and out of any pub in the city, free to sample any of their finest pints. But I think it goes deeper than that.

The drinking law is just plain dumb. And so are all the plans to inhibit underage drinking from all the governments and all the universities across America. They’re dumb.

College presidents across the country think that their “binge beer” advertisement that ran in newspapers earlier this month is going to make a dent in the lucrative business of underage drinking. They’re wrong. In fact, enforcing the age limit is counterproductive.

If the real problem on college campuses is binge drinking, then the best way to regulate it is to bring the booze back onto campus. If schools can oversee drinking in campus-owned bars, then they can control excessive drinking. As long as schools close campus bars, the students will migrate to sleazy dives just off campus where barkeeps named Moe will fill ’em up with booze until they meet their financial limit.

Still, schools can’t help but ban the booze. They need to comply with the law, lest they let lawyers run free on their campus, clamoring for universities to be liable for every freshman who underestimates the magnificent power of Captain Morgan.

So the problem lies with the government, but this is no surprise. Banning things is easier than trying to solve the problems behind them. Alcohol isn’t really the problem; it’s the puritanical American attitude toward liquor that causes the problems. Kids are raised not to respect alcohol but to fear its power. We feel that we should ban alcohol rather than introduce it. Typically, alcohol not only becomes a longed-for commodity but also one for which students are not prepared.

When those kids get to college, they step up for a dance with the bottle, not considering beer a companion for a barbecue but a fossil fuel to power an evening of revelry. Spending an entire afternoon at a café mulling over half a bottle of wine is lost behind the American ideal of a keg stand.

And, of course, it’s the fault of young people, too. Every time we piss in a mail slot, we damage our cause. Every time we rouse our neighbors out of bed with our alcoholic antics, we damage our cause. We may not have been raised with liquor, but we also make no effort to become properly acquainted with it.

By age 21, we should be long past ready to join Jack Daniels at the bar. We should be ready at 18, when we’re told we’re ready for every other responsibility of citizenship. After all, does it take more responsibility to operate a gun or a tap?

Days on the Hilltop appears Tuesdays in The Hoya.

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