We fade, either in brilliant and unexpected flashes of circumstance or as an imperceptible result of our enthusiasm finding itself outmatched by the daily assault of living.
I’m not impressed with optimism when I see it in the eyes of a rich man. I’m impressed when I see it in the face of a poor man, working a job that depletes him daily, facing an endless stream of obstacles and problems. Wealth confers optimism to almost all who seek it; struggle reveals optimism in those who already possess it. – X
*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.
Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.
It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.
In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.
To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.
Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.
I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.
To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.
I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.
I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.
“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.
We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.
“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.
Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.
Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.
Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The cliché of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.
Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.
As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.
The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.
I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.
If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.
Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.
If the first rule is “Don’t negotiate with terrorists,” the second rule is this: “Whenever possible, limit your meaningful interactions with manipulative people.” Even though almost no one does so, it is equally true that we should pay the price as soon as possible with such people. That we’re going to have a go-to-Hell argument with them at some point is a certainty; delaying it wounds us incrementally and perpetually until we lunge toward the chance to pay the price and break the bond.
A friend of mine has struggled for years with someone who masterfully whiplashes people around her. She gaslights and triggers. Rarely, however, does she leave a smoking gun that her victims can point to in protest. The subtlety is akin to a razor blade cutting the skin sufficiently to cause bleeding and persistent minor pain. The accumulation of such cuts, however, turns even the most compassionate person into a cauldron of irritation.
This segues into a post I started yesterday morning.
From Madam Anon, the anonymous commenter who sometimes writes to me.
Madam Anon sent me this list, asking if it would be helpful:
Do you feel like they try to control you?
Do you feel like the person is good for your mental health?
Do you feel like the person lets you be you?
Does the person ask how you are?
Do you feel the person responds to you with enthusiasm or with an obligatory response?
Do you feel like you can let your guard down with them and not think about their response to you?
Do they pop into your head when you hear stories of positive care people or the opposite?
Would you characterize the person in question as “good,” however you define the word?
If you’re otherwise a good person, you should trust your instincts about a person. Ask yourself the above questions. Since all of human behavior exists on a sliding scale and a fluid Venn diagram, you have to take the variables into account and decide for yourself how toxic the person in question is to your well-being.
Above all, if you get a letter or card signed “Love, Jerry,” pour holy water on it. Once it stops sizzling, bury it in the backyard under the light of the full moon.
Life’s too short to endure manipulation, even if it is due to familial obligation. If you can’t beat them, be creative. Their unavoidable presence in your life at least presents you with the opportunity to try unusual methods of repaying them for their unkindness.
The link below is in the same ballpark of observation:
I sprinted past the moment, though it didn’t truly exist in the way that things do.
I had looked forward with such intensity and anticipation that it had condensed into an impossibly small point in time.
Because I’m older, I now see that this is how most of us manage the span of our entire lives: increments, milestones, and anticipated moments.
There are labels for this sort of thing. “Futurizing” is one of my favorites.
Though covid fleetingly slows us from careening as carelessly as we once did, even its lesson of mortality will soon enough become a vague memory.
Each of us will step back into the tide of normalcy, whatever that might be, and pace forward.
Birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, achievements, all seemingly without terminus – although undeniably connected by an invisible strand.
I predict we’ll be more feverish postcovid. We’ll collectively feel the pause button click free and begin our mad dash to collect what we thought we missed while the world held its breath. People do not like to feel like they are missing out, even if what they have fills their lives.
Weirdly, I feel that we should take a breath and slow down. Sit and stare. Read and contemplate. Look within and around. We were not prepared, despite having history’s best medicine, technology, and logistics.
Our failure wasn’t external, however.
It lies within us where, in reality, each of us lives.
This post originally appeared on a social media page. It garnered a huge amount of anger, after someone shared it on a conservative forum and asked that it be flooded with trollish commentary. The unintended consequence of that trolling resulted in a lot more readers than it ever would have received absent the trolls.
I wrote this as a simple appeal, one devoid of the complicated and dense language employed by so many when addressing one of the most basic parts of our system of governance.
Another brilliant person vehemently argued that we have no business changing the constitution. Further, he insisted that those who wrote it knew what they were doing. It disturbs me to hear people argue that the law is a closed and perfect system. Obviously, it is not.
The process of amendment aside, I always go for the easy point by pointing out that those rich white men thought that slavery was an excellent idea, as well as failing to include half the population in the right to vote and full participation. The constitution contained several ideas which are reprehensible, undemocratic, and unworthy of continued regard. Even a bit of scrutiny demonstrates that many of the founders wrote the constitution with their own best interests in mind. Those interests were not in favor of much of the population.
Either of those two points is sufficient to derail a thinking man’s reverence for the law. The constitution saddled us with several institutions which do not achieve the objectives for which they were designed.
More importantly, of course, we have the right for self-determination. We owe no total allegiance to those who founded this country, no more than the founders did toward the Crown when they declared war on Great Britain. Circumstances change. Society advances or declines in ways never imagined by the Founders. Even if such changes had been in their minds, it’s irrelevant.
We have just as much right to alter our course now as we did then.
For all the groups deliberately ignored in the original constitution, I apologize. Most people who defend the legitimacy of the original constitution aren’t deliberately endorsing the misogyny and racism of its contents; they are focusing on the idealism allegedly behind it.
Given that the founders also included a method for amendment to our fundamental framework, it’s ridiculous to insist that we should blindly continue allegiance to the parts of our past system which don’t further our evolving values and views. Strangely enough, I’m surprised constantly by how many Americans don’t know that our constitution allows a vote of the states to reconvene another constitutional convention, one which could conceivably rewrite our entire system of governance without oversight.
We do not need to discard our entire constitution to change it. The Founders at least managed to get that part right. As circumstances change, we can alter our framework without the needless waste of revolution.
Many scholars want us to complicate the issue to the point of absurdity.
They employ distracting arguments to have us look away from our ongoing and permanent ability to determine our destiny as a nation.
If we choose to dissolve ourselves from the obligations created by an elitist group of rich white men, we have that right. We can do better. We will do better, or suffer the consequences at our own peril.
You can pontificate all you want to say otherwise. You’ve already lost the argument, however.
You don’t get to frame the issue.
By law, by necessity, by will.
What is the polite way to tell someone that people refer to them as “The Mooch” behind their backs? Answer: “There isn’t one.” Even if you’re right, trying to tell someone this can only result in anger. Even expert mooches don’t seem themselves in this light, much in the same way that prejudice blinds the holder from its influence. Such behavior becomes background noise for them .
I’d been at the fringes of this experience before, usually informally and always with one or two other people. Mooches tend to evolve into the habit. They learn the subtle ways to misdirect people or to convince them they’re being unfair.
I was in South Dakota with my wife, Deanne, long deceased. She had a huge Catholic family. Being with them in a group was at times like attending a party with gregarious and funny people who were always one joke ahead of you.
Several of us gathered at a bar/eatery in a mall in South Dakota. One of Deanne’s uncles made a comment about money and tipping. Another one piped in and laughed. He said, “Man, that makes me really miss -James-.” (I changed his name to protect his anonymity.)
An Aunt immediately said, “What a mooch!” As she pronounced the last word ‘mooch,’ 4 or 5 other people at the table said the word ‘mooch’ in unison with her. It was a hilarious and jarring moment. I looked around the table and most of them noted the incredulity on my face.
They sang it in the same way that the characters on “Letterkenny” say “To Be Fair…” each time the phrase is uttered.
-James- wasn’t a blood relation to them. He’d been around the family often, though.
An uncle said, “I guess X here didn’t know we all call -James- “The Mooch” anytime we mention him?” I shook my head no. “Well, let me tell you some stories…”
For the next 15 minutes, all of them told an increasingly incredible series of “Mooch” stories. Forgotten wallets, lost $20 bills, requests to pay them back later, extra pizzas added to orders without asking and never repaid, one-night stays that turned into weeks, requests for double meat tacos, siphoned gas ‘because what mine is yours,’ among others.
The oldest uncle said, “X, watch out. He’ll trick you with his niceness and you will be trapped in an ever-larger cycle of loans that aren’t repaid and a helping hand that will get bitten. He’s done it to us all. We have all been marks at one point or another. Weirdly, he can be a fun guy, but it’s always about the angle with him.”
Over the years, I compiled quite a list of equally ridiculous mooching behavior from -James-. The uncle wasn’t wrong.
The Mooch in question grew older to become a conservative who bitterly complains about rich people, poor people living off the government, or anyone who was getting something he wouldn’t. A long series of jobs, a long series of financial missteps, repossessed vehicles, and unexpected involuntary moves from one place to another punctuate The Mooch’s life.
There’s no moral to this story and not much of a narrative. Perfectionism is tiresome to me. I was thinking about -James- today and hoping his bitter attitude had evolved.
I’ve not heard the word ‘mooch’ in the last 20 years without thinking about -James- and the eagerness with which people who knew him shared stories about it.
I cringe a bit, knowing that in a way I can’t see, I’m probably a little bit “-James-, ” too.
If -James- were to read this, he’d be very angry.
I’m certain that he’d be violently upset to discover that an entire clan of people equate him with the living embodiment of “The Mooch.” It’s not the most enviable way to be remembered.
A sufficiently long time ago, I sent this letter to the Sheriff of ______ County. I know the letter was received because the Sheriff took the time to write an idiotic email to the email address that I included with the letter. Because of the audacity and hypocrisy of the county employee who pulled me over, I decided to use my wit and sarcasm to drive home the point that people often do things that achieve the opposite objective of what they allegedly intend. Everything about the policeman who pulled me over that day reeked of a lack of professionalism, courtesy, and human kindness. From what I’ve observed over the years, this kind of person is the worst kind to wear a badge.
Honorable **** *****
________ County Sheriff
I have searched the news and internet for the medical GoFundMe page for ________ County deputies. So far, I haven’t found it.
I enjoy donating money to worthy causes, especially ones which help fellow citizens to live more productive and happy lives.
Before I forget to do so, I would like to thank you in advance for your prompt response and for providing me with the resource links to help a couple of your deputies. It is painfully obvious that they need medical support. Without it, performing their job duties will continue to be increasingly uncomfortable and difficult.
Specifically, I noted that one of your lieutenants walks with a pained gait in his step, as if each step renders him momentarily paralyzed. Having a GoFundMe account will help trained surgeons to relieve this pain.
I can only surmise how far up his ass the stick must be inserted. I don’t know when the stick got stuck up his ass but is obvious that one of great girth and length must be stuck up in there. It is the only explanation for the manner in which he conducts himself while dealing with the public – and the look of disgust he carries on his face each day. He is the ‘before’ picture of almost any tragic story. I’m here to help.
I will gladly donate to help him have the stick up his ass removed, under the assumption that the stick is indeed the cause of his attitude. It’s hard to perform one’s job duties while in pain, angry at the world, or working under the assumption that people are not worthy of respect.
Please let me know where I can send money to help your deputies and the lieutenant specifically. If I don’t hear from you, I know that at some point in the future I’ll be inexplicably pulled over when the county coffers are depleted. I’ll gladly donate then, too.
Juan Q. Public
P.S. No one cares what rank a police officer holds, especially when doing traffic citations. You’re here to protect and serve the public, rather than the other way around. If the public employee behaves badly, his or her behavior reflects poorly on the department – not just the officer.
P.P.S. Your Lieutenant was driving recklessly prior to pulling me over, as well as having run another driver off the road. I could be wrong, but I’m convinced the personal cellphone call he was making probably interfered with his ability to drive safely. I know you’re glad I sent you these unsolicited comments.
When my wife died suddenly several years ago, I opted for an awkward visitation after her cremation. I know it was awkward; such things were not common, especially in the Venn diagram of the converging families affected by her death. Many of her family were Catholic; a few of those hid behind their Catholicism to attempt to blame their dislike of cremation. To be fair, I didn’t care. In my case, I was lucky. The death of a maternal uncle about a month before had crystallized any doubts what my wife wanted if she died. She loved the Catholic church through her grandmother’s eyes; she rejected in the world at large. Her displeasure with it took on its own life when she observed some of her family members use it as a disguise for the things that infected them.
Though it strays from the theme of this post, one of the first serious conversations I had with her involved her dad. Her youth was punctuated by heartache. Both parents were not appropriately tuned in to their kids. She was the youngest of a series of children born to a mix of fathers. Both misbehaved; the mom especially led a promiscuous lifestyle. I convinced my wife that she would almost certainly reach a point where she could sit in a room and laugh with her dad. That day came before her death. It wasn’t perfect, but it was miles from where they’d started.
Even though it made some people uncomfortable, for the visitation I had a table with letters, photos, and both mementos and moments for people to see. Like it or not, none of us are prepared for the unreasonable demands of sudden death, especially when young.
Someone familiar with my story and the players involved told me a story I keep forgetting. Her accounting of memories and happenings is much stronger than mine – though she would not agree with me saying so.
When she attended my wife’s visitation, the wife of my biggest critic turned to her and mentioned the cigarette burns on her husband’s back, ones earned during his abusive childhood.
I wasn’t a part of the conversation. Although I was told the story before, it slipped out of my mind as things do.
It was such an odd time to bring it up.
It was an odd and unrequested topic, too.
Given the recent uptick in unsolicited criticism, it echoes in my mind as a benchmark for so much.
I felt like I should share this story.
Because the story comes from someone unimpeachable, it seems important that the wife would later attempt a hard right turn into becoming a revisionist regarding any abuse.
The abused themselves do this with an astonishing frequency.