One of my favorite things about the internet, is how cyclical and serpentine it can be. You can start out somewhere and if you follow enough tangents — something I can’t frankly help — you end up in new and wonderful places or, at a minimum, at a place you either didn’t expect to find or didn’t know was out there. I find a lot of the things I write about by happy accident. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’ve stumbled yet again on something I think worth writing about myself. A good example of this is some new laws in North Carolina that took effect December 1. I learned of these new laws through a blog, The Agitator, which I found at another blog, Coffee and Diapers, which is a parenting blog that picked up on my earlier post about Mothers For Social Drinking (which I also originally found by accident).
At any rate, the original story came from a television station in the Raleigh-Durham area, WRAL Channel 5, which is a place I actually lived for several years. I used to be, in the early 1980s, a record buyer for a large chain of stores headquartered in Durham, North Carolina and lived in both Durham and later Chapel Hill. Having grown up in the northeastern state of Pennsylvania, being in the south was a real eye-opener, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, some forty new state laws went into effect at the beginning of December and their story addressed a few of them. They started out with the alcohol-related ones for whatever reason and there’s a couple of doozies. The first one that caught my attention I’m not really against per se, but I think it’s illustrative of how oddly people think about alcohol. From the WRAL story:
One law bans devices known as “alcohol inhalers,” which convert liquor into a mist that can be inhaled by the user. Lawmakers were concerned that the devices, which were assembled and distributed by a Greensboro company, were being marketed to underage drinkers.
Okay, to be clear, I think this sounds like a bad idea and it goes against my personal philosophies on the moderate enjoyment of alcohol and also because I’ve never been a fan of anything that has to enter my body through my nose. I knew plenty of people in the 1980s who disagreed with my personal nasal entry ban (my rhinoprohibition), but I never begrudged them their day in the snow. So okay, somebody figured out a way to snort alcohol. I wouldn’t do it myself, and I can’t understand why anyone else would want to either. But here’s what I really don’t get. “Lawmakers were concerned (my emphasis) that the devices were being marketed to underage drinkers.” Huh? So they decided that an ostensibly legal product should be made illegal precisely because minors might try to buy it. Let me put that another way. As an adult, I can no longer buy a (previously) legal product because law enforcement cannot effectively keep people (minors in this case) from illegally obtaining it. So effectively because they can’t stop underage use of this product, they’re willing to take away every adult’s right to buy it. Please tell me how that makes any sense whatsoever? That is about as ridiculous a justification for making something illegal as I’ve ever heard. Fast food is marketed to kids and demonstrably terrible for their health, yet I don’t see these same lawmakers rushing to ban Big Macs, Whoppers or happy meals. Soda is even worse, yet schools allow soft drink companies to put soda vending machines in schools. Apparently, that’s okay too. I guess it’s okay for our kids to be fat and toothless but heaven forbid they might even consider snorting a mist of alcohol despite the fact that it’s already against the law for them to do so. Just the possibility of that — there do not appear to be any actual facts of underage use — makes them locate their spines to “protect the children” and take one more step toward making their state fit only for children. How noble. How absurd.
But the one that got The Agitator worked up — and I can certainly see why — is this one:
Also, as of Saturday, people can lose their driver’s licenses for providing alcohol to anyone under 21. The penalty is important because many underage drinkers get alcohol from friends or family members, said Craig Lloyd, the executive director of the North Carolina chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The law means that, theoretically, parents could be punished for giving a glass of wine to their 20-year-old son or daughter, even if the 20-year-old never gets behind the wheel.
Lloyd said that’s not excessive.
“It’s a zero-tolerance policy,” he said. “Breaking the law is breaking the law.”
As Radley Balko at the Agitator put it:
I know what you’re thinking. Surely authorities would never barge into someone’s home and arrest them for allowing their 18, 19, or 20-year-old son or daughter to have a beer, right?
Well, you’d think. But then, if you’d told me police might come to the home of a minor’s parents at 4 am, wake the entire family, then give the girl a breath test to see if she had been drinking at a party held hours earlier, I’d have been dubious, too.
But it’s happened. Never underestimate the absurd lengths to which the zero tolerance crowd will go to keep your kid stone-cold sober.
The link above is to an ALCU story from Michigan where apparently they’re the only state — for now, at least —where it’s “illegal for young adults and minors who are not driving to refuse a breathalyzer test when the police do not have a search warrant. Those who refuse to take tests in Michigan are guilty of a civil infraction and must pay a $100 fine.” under Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703(6).
And there was at least one instance that you can just see being repeated both there and in North Carolina, as well.
Ashley Berden was 18 years old when she attended a party at a friend’s house to celebrate her graduation from Swan Valley High School. After she left the party, Thomas Township police officers arrived and found her purse which she had forgotten. They then came to Berden’s house at 4:00 a.m., woke up her family and demanded that she take a breath test. The police did not have a warrant but they informed her that would be violating the law if she refused the test. The test registered a .00% blood-alcohol level, indicating that Berden had not been drinking.
Pretty scary stuff. Especially when you consider that in societies where parents are allowed to raise their own children as they see fit, there is a much lower incidence of abuse later in life. But this new North Carolina law will make any parent who gives their own son or daughter even a taste of beer or wine to educate them a criminal. In effect, the state of North Carolina has decreed they can do a better job of raising your children than you can. Naturally, the North Carolina chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving sees the world in stark black and white whereas the rest of us can see all the shades of gray that parenting really entails. Because it seems to me that they really believe they can do a better job of raising my child than I can. They seem to have all the answers and really believe they know best. In their world an adult is no longer an adult but must live in a world where anything unsafe for children is no longer allowed for adults, either. In their world, a parent has little or no control over how and what they can teach their children about the world. That’s what zero-tolerance really means. It means tolerating only one way of life over all others. That’s as scary a world as I can imagine, a world that is the very opposite of free.