My thoughts on lowering the drinking age

25 Aug

I don’t think that lowering the drinking age should be completely out of the question. Sure, people are quoting statistics like “Safety advocates say the legal drinking age of 21 saves about 900 lives every year.” I do think that those stats should be taken seriously and they should inform our opinions. But I feel like any conservative evangelical that reads a headline like “Proposal to lower the drinking age” would just balk at the very notion. “Oh no, we cannot do such a thing as that!”

Why not? Does the Bible say “Thou shalt not drink wine until thou reachest the rightful age of 21 years.” I’ve never read that in the Bible. And one person who commented on an article about this in USA Today said that 18-year-olds can do everything else recognized as an adults’ right: join the Army, vote, buy cigarettes and porn, get married, drive a car, get a bank account, a job, etc. They can even buy a house (though their lack of credit and money probably prevents many from doing so).

So why can’t they drink?

I can see one argument–that alcohol is a dangerous thing and is abused by thousands of college students across the country. According to conservative theory, making drinking at that age would just encourage more college students to do so.

Well, let me just debunk that theory, as a recent college grad who definitely did her fair share of underage drinking. I wanted to drink before I was 21 so I found a way. It’s that simple. It’s not hard to get alcohol when you’re underage. Plenty of friends are either older or they have a fake ID. As an underage drinker, you quickly learn about the liquor stores that don’t check IDs closely–or at all. You learn about the places that get busted a ton by the cops and you stay away from them. You know which bars you can sneak into. You know who will buy you booze. This is College Living 101 for many students.

One argument used by the college presidents supporting this Amethyst Initiative is that lowering the drinking age would bring what is now a behind-closed-doors, secretive activity out into the public. Students who tailgate at their houses would be able to drink at the game. Instead of downing all 12 of their beers in the 2 hours before the game, they could down them over a period of 5-6 hours.

I totally agree with this argument. If students could drink at restaurants and bars and games, they wouldn’t have to booze it up in large amounts to be drunk before entering a public place. They could drink at a slower pace. And let me tell you, when you’re drinking quickly to get drunk and taking shots, sometimes you don’t feel the alcohol kick in until your 7th or 8th shot–at which point, you’re a goner. The chance to drinking slower and at various public places would help the binge drinking, IMO.

But I am not advocating binge drinking!! I am not even advocating underage drinking. My stance on this topic is very similar to my stance on abortion. Let me explain: while I don’t think that abortions are morally right and I don’t think that women should get them, I would not say that I am pro-life in a political sense. I don’t vote for pro-life politicians just because they’re pro-life. If I like another politican (who just happens to be pro-choice) better as a whole, I’ll vote for him or her.

The reason? When abortion was illegal, it didn’t go away. Instead, it went underground. Women had unsafe abortions in dirty conditions by untrained “doctors.” Many of the women suffered complications from the abortions; many actually died. I am convinced that this is what would happen if we tried to outlaw abortion through legislation today–women would still find a way to abort. They would just have to turn to the underground abortionists in dangerous conditions.

Changing our country’s perception on abortion comes through educating people about the fetus and stages of pregnancy. It comes from persuading them to choose adoption instead of abortion, if they really don’t want to raise their child. It comes from talking to pregnant, unwed mothers about the consequences of their choices and about the little life that is growing inside of them. It’s come through education, NOT through legislation.

And so my view on the drinking age is: why not lower it? Any underage student who really wants to drink is going to do it, regardless of whether they’re legal or not. They’re just confined to some dingy, damp college house basement with beer kegs and plastic cups instead of a nice, clean restaurant with martinis and glasses.

And let’s think about this: any student who is moral and straight-laced enough to say “I am not yet 21, so I am going to wait to drink”–what are the chances that that same student is going to binge drink when they do become of age? Wouldn’t their morality be a little inconsistent if they did? The students who are binge drinking are rebels–they don’t care what the legal drinking age is. They’ll do it in whatever way they can.

My main point: lowering the drinking age to 18 wouldn’t cause a drunken epidemic amoung college-age students–at least not one any bigger than the one already occurring.

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