Flavin's Corner

11-17-00

Alcoholics All-Of-Us

Could alcoholism be at the root of the voting quagmire in Florida? Sure, the matronly, Machiavellian maneuvers of Barbara Bush might be behind this civic disaster, but signs of possible ethanol abuse by Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State, are present (notably in her choice of news-conference attire), and we can only hope Clinton will see fit to step in and take advantage of the situation. And it's not just the Sunshine State that's tipped too many, as the rest of America seems drunk with itself as well. Everyone has an opinion, no one has a clue, and like drunks clamoring to the bar at last -call, we're committed to hanging on every news item concerning the election. All of us are alcoholics, though some appear more temperate in their abuse than others. I know this much--the hangover from the (ongoing) election is going to be rough!

We enter the fray with a compulsive handicap. Rules, although widely respected, are expected to be bent and broken. The late Prof. T. Leary (Harvard, psychology) would often remark during the course of his lectures that our presence on Mom Terra is owed to aerobes violating the "no -oxygen" rule at the end of the Archaean Period, 3.5 to 2.5 billion years ago. The proliferation (read: legalization) of oxygen and its change in status from controlled to required substance is still not fully understood. Atmospheric mechanisms whereby a 21% oxygen level was achieved and maintained continue mysterious, evasive, and example planetary gender dynamics. How like Mom Terra to have secrets!

Though the practice of "breakfast beer" is often ridiculed today, it wasn't always so. Most land animals (as well as some freshwater ones) have encountered ethanol from partially fermented (read: rotten) fruit, indeed some see evolution as being assisted by various animals dispersing seeds from alcohol-laced fruit. Partial evidence suggests Cretaceous mammals survived the extinction of the dinosaurs because they were too drunk to get involved with the whole meteor smackdown scenario and challenges us to rethink potential positive results produced by a liquor binge. Indeed the latest Out-of-Africa theories have hominids spreading across the planet because they were tired of competing with other animals of the savanna for booze-fruit.

The pre-agriculture soaking technology used on legumes was applied to grain at the beginning of the Neolithic and beer has been with us ever since. The popularity of beer in Egypt and Sumeria is well attested, with the Akkadian sikaru appearing in Hebrew scripture as shekar, in New Testament Greek as sikera, the Baptist's bane, and became the Late Latin cera, the Middle English sidre, before finally emerging as our modern "cider," though the association has changed from grain to fruit. Some go so far as to argue Jesus brewed beer in Cana, but this is probably just unabashed propaganda by agents of the brewing industry.

That the Puritans onboard the Mayflower pulled ashore at Plymouth because they'd exhausted their supplies of beer is common lore, with one passenger commenting in his diary: "We could not now take time for further search or considerations, our victuals being spent, especially our Beer…" It was historical irony when after a cold, hard, initial winter, the Puritans were greeted by their first Native visitor, who announced and asked, "Welcome, English! I am Samoset. Do you have beer?" Yes, booze has been and remains an essential component of American life.

Salem's 1692 witchcraft hysteria has been previously blamed on ergotism from grain infected with Claviceps purpurea, but I see no good reason not to equally advance overproof rum imported from Barbados. It works for me… Likewise, pursuing alcoholic revisionism, the drunk Freemasons of St. Andrew's Lodge who stumbled out of The Green Dragon Tavern in 1773 and contributed to the Boston Tea Party were surly sloshed on more than Sam Adams' efforts, with American corn whiskey as a likely candidate.

I'm almost sure both sides in our Civil War were drunk as skunks. The two World Wars were definitely won by Americans who fought for the rights of others to get as drunk as they please. Indeed, I'm told the true inspiration for America's Civil Rights Movement was equal access to liquor stores for African-Americans and other minorities, a victory reenacted with pride countless times a day in most major cities (and quite a few small ones, as well). Apollo and landing on The Moon? Yeah, NASA doesn't want it widely known, however most astronauts are way blasted when they lift off. America has never had a drinking problem, inasmuch as we're quite good at drinking. Maybe too good…

The election in Florida raises concern for a correlation between alcohol abuse and our voting process. Those who wasted their vote on Ralph Nadar were undoubtedly wasted themselves. The "butterfly" ballot with its potentially confusing positioning of the "punch-holes," as well as the generally poor cognitive functioning on the part of the local voters, are offered as the pertinent causes for an elderly Jewish constituency supporting Pat Buchanan, a candidate who's on record for admiring Hitler. An alternative explanation of too much Mogen David, or other kosher intoxicant, isn't any sillier. 10,000 votes for Buchanan? Ouch!

To what extent Barbara Bush has covertly manipulated America in support of her son's presidential aspiration remains to be determined by future historians and online chat-rooms. There's little doubt she was behind the "Eleventh Hour" release of information regarding her son's conviction for DUI. It was a calculated, preemptive strike orchestrated to play upon the fears of the undecided. America had expressed concern over Gov. Bush's problems with cocaine and what his campaign needed was to focus the voters on his alcoholism. What mother could stand idly by while her son is callously described as a "coke-head," while in fact is just a common drunk? Barbara Bush couldn't!

For some the election is over, for most it'll be over sometime soon, and for a few it'll never be over. Re-counting is thirsty work and I wouldn't be surprised if truckloads of free beer begin to show up in Florida. And all of America will be there fingering chads, whetting their whistles, tallying ballots, tossing back some cold-ones, participating in history and getting loaded at the same time. America: Love It or Get Drunk!

Wild Turkey ahead,

Rick

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