Prohibition...trying to know history so not to repeat it
"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong."
For most of us Prohibition seems ludicrous, ridiculous, difficult to understand not only how such a law was passed but how it could have also lasted from 1919 to 1933!!!!! At the time the far right a fundamentalist temperance movement decreed that alcohol was immoral and leading to sin. This fringe portion of society lobbied and ranted and lobbied and ranted some more until Congress instead of listening to the majority of people, who stayed silent since they could not imagine such a ludicrous, ridiculous act would actually pass, or heeding their own thoughts on this process passed this act into law. It is a cyclical thing in history, the Dark Ages with the religious imposition that were followed by the Enlightenment period where we embraced science and gladly applauded free thinking. It needs to happen in Islam...sooner rather than later ...these prohibitive, inflexible rules that keep the people from achieving their potential through fear.
As I read about Prohibition in a book, that by the way in my usual sidetracked writing way will say is magnificent called Why Sinatra Matters (and yes it is by the man I am currently calling my literary booty call Pete Hamill), I felt as though I am almost reading the headlines and newspaper accounts of the current political landscape. Many people feel we should live in the present and we should but not at the expense of not learning about, and from, our past. I think that the Volstead act is very relevant to today's climate. Then as now these groups believed that government should be small or non-existent yet well funded and involved in mandating and enforcing their agenda. I find it ironic that they keep saying how Ronald Regan is their hero yet do not seem to be aware that he raised taxes 11 times, increased government (not just military) more than his 2 previous predecessors and did not believe that government had any role in individual decisions....yes I know his faults and there are many but he is not the anti-tax, anti-government icon they claim, he almost seems middle of the road in comparison to today's Conservative element, almost. A small, fringe group of fundamentalist under the guise of religious belief and freedom is despartely trying to tell the majority of the country that their way is the better way, that they represent "us", that they somehow know how the God they worship has chosen them as a vessel to help the rest of "us" sinners...can I hear an Amen?!!!! The sheer hubris of this is I believe is a sin.... they obviously have spent no time looking at history.
The Volstead act was an act of racism as well. I know - what am I saying???? This is pretty well documented though ...the folks who were pro-Volstead were very anti-immigration particulary of immigrants who were not as light skinned (Italians, African-Americans) or not Protestant (Jews, Catholics). These groups all used alcohol as part of familial celebrations, religious celebrations, not for intoxication but the Klan (who by the way were supporters of the Volstead act) and the middle of America fundementalists (small percentage by the way) did not want to make these immigrants welcome. They wanted to make them feel illegal in this country and created a law that ensured that they hoped would make these immigrants criminals. They were saving us ...they were cutting down the evil crimes and lewd behavior that alcohol induced...they were going to make us bible thumping born again ...oh yeah fundamentalists. Most of these fringe elements today are also pretty well tied to isolationist, racist groups ...scary how history repeats itself - or how we can write our own!
The Volstead act created the Mob, increased the number of saloons into speakeasies by three fold, created a corrupt police force in most major cities and oh yeah did not stop lewd behavior, if anything it created a criminality where for many there was none before. It allowed the worst of society to flourish while using the money, that could have been used to potentially buffer what would become the great depression which followed in the 30s, from the government. Fast forward to today and what do you have a minority of far right, religious fanatics whose goal is to curtail rights, to enforce their version of morality on the rest of us, to dismantle the very foundation of this country (remember that pursuit of happiness, individual liberty portion the founding fathers thought worthy of capturing on paper..well guess since these folks usually want to also not teach anything to kids that exposes their lack of foundation for their beliefs it may have escaped them). We cannot be silent now though, 14 years of Prohibition was 14 years of increased crime, racism and money poorly spent by a government to appease a small minority who should have never had this much power to begin with. It is time to take back the country to a place of separation of religion and government, to a place where progress and science were given priority, where funding for education and healthcare were seen as positive for all citizens, not to creating more laws that criminalize personal choices ...it is time to shout that we the majority want to move to prosperity and enlightenment!....I'll raise my full glass to that.
"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves."