Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hooray Online Newspapers!

After recently reading an article in the Daily Bulldog, I was compelled to write a Letter to the Editor. Had this been any other newspaper in Maine, my letter probably would never have been published, but thanks to online newspapers, they CAN publish inflammatory letters. So they put mine on their website; On the "Dangers" of Underage Drinking. Here's the letter in full if you're feeling lazy;
Upon reading the article recounting Maine First Lady Karen Baldacci's words on the "dangers" of underage drinking I found myself chuckling.

Oftentimes for me, politicians' comments are comical. It seems to me that at times they choose they words specifically to be self-contradictory and illogical. The "danger" of underage drinking is the law itself. The cognitive dissonance that parades around inside a bureaucrats' head must be bigger than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

First Lady Baldacci recognizes that “underage drinking costs us all...[and that it's a] community problem with a community solution.” But then I'm sure moved on to continue pushing the 21-year-old drinking age. The article claims that the main reason why we have such a high drinking age is because the brain is still in development until the age of 21, though major cognitive development continues until at least 25, if not longer, while some neurologists will tell you that the brain never fully completes development.

Not to mention that all of these studies of the effects of alcohol on the brains of children were conducted
on rats, and not humans, as that would just be unethical. But if this is the case, and the way we should protect our helpless children from harming their brains is keeping the drinking age at 21, shouldn't we also
be raising our enlistment age as well? In the United States our young men and women can enlist at the young age of 18, and with parental consent can enlist at the age of 17. With all sorts of disorders now
associated with tours of combat, shouldn't we be worried about our soldiers' brain development? But I digress.

An HCC representative said that she found it "startling" how young children were when they had their first alcoholic drink. Reading this as well made me chuckle. Obviously this poor woman hasn't been outside of the United States in the last oh, century or so, where the drinking age is always significantly lower than the United States, if existent at all.

A recent World Health Organization study found that Europeans, whose average drinking age is always lower than ours, have more average drinking occasions per week, but less occasions of dangerous intoxication than Americans. One in ten of Europeans' drinking occasions end in intoxication, while half of Americans' end in intoxication. So it seems that the earlier one introduces children to alcohol, the less likely they are to form habits of "binge" drinking, though that concept doesn't seem to even exist outside of the United States.

As a recent 22-year-old, having had a full year of legal drinking under my belt, the concept of a 21-year-old drinking age still seems absurd to me. In speaking to older folks about the good ol' days when 18-year-olds could die for the country AND drink legally, they have always brought up the same story about how when they were younger, and 18, they'd come into the bars and drink with the old-timers who would teach them how to drink responsibly.

It's this idea that we need to protect children from themselves rather than let them be responsible that breeds all sorts of malcontent among youngsters. By taking away the right for these children to be autonomous and make safe and responsible decisions, we're just furthering their lives as mindless cattle who don't think for themselves.

A 21-year-old drinking age breeds disrespect for the law, but a law that recognizes that children of an age younger than 21 can make responsible decisions on their own would do the opposite, and instead make children realize that they are responsible for themselves, and if they can realize that, maybe they'll starting caring about others and the world around them.

And then we can all sing Kumbaya.

Mike Simpson
(Graduating senior at UMF)

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