Yes. The answer is, probably, YES. And we’ll get to that in a minute. But first, I want to lament how absurdly, ludicrously cowed and bullied our culture has become. Remember the national 55 MPH speed limit law? I do. When I was a young man, I owned a car that was designed for extended time at speeds in excess of 100 MPH on the German Autobahn, but the speedometer was limited, by law, to register only a marginal amount over 55 MPH. The thinking was: “It’s not legal, so don’t allow the speedometer to show it.” The result, of course, is that there were times during long stretches in the desert where I had no idea how fast I was going, because the speedometer was pegged. That national law has become a thing of the past, mercifully, and the speed limit on our rural interstate freeways in Colorado is now 75 MPH. Why is that? Did the physics of automobile travel change? Have we decided we’re now ok with daily road carnage caused by the higher speeds? No. It changed because the original law was forced down our throats with the groundless promise that it would “save lives,” without a smidgen of data to back that up. So we suffered under this law for decades and almost no lives were saved, but billions of productive hours (and billions of speeding fine dollars) were lost. More odorous to me was the fact that we became less free to use our own judgment about the smallest details of how we live, day-to-day.
The national 55 MPH law is a thing of the past, but some have begun to question our other freedom-crushing laws, like the 21-year-old drinking age. I’m all for that, and I was for it when Pete Coors introduced an 18 drinking age as a campaign issue in Colorado a few years ago. But nobody listened to him then. You know who people are listening to now? Camille Paglia. You can see her awesome article about it in Time Magazine.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
What has me kinda steamed is that it takes a fairly anarchistic atheist lesbian to promote common sense changes in this screwed up country. When it comes to freedom issues, why can’t regular, everyday Americans, the kind without any hyphenated, alternative-lifestyle creds attached to their names, propose that we have a little more liberty around here without being shouted down?
Don’t get me wrong. I LIKE Camille Paglia. Thank God for her. She might save us yet. But if we’re only “allowed” by our culture to listen to certain blessed “counter cultural” voices before correcting some of our biggest mistakes, it’s going to take a very long time, indeed, to take back liberty in this nation. Consider, for a moment, something much more important than speed limits and drinking ages. Consider the outrageous bigotry that is still, even now, directed at conservative blacks by American liberals. Just last month, a sitting member of Congress (Alvin Holmes, D-AL) chose to call Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” and a “ventriloquist dummy” for the GOP. But that’s tame, of course, compared to the bigoted racism that Clarence Thomas could read in Salon.com or DailyKos.com every day about himself. Who’s going to fix that glaring defect in our national fabric? Liberals don’t seem ready to lift a finger to stop any of it. And conservatives aren’t “allowed” to comment on race or bigotry. Maybe that should change.
But some of that change will have to happen from inside. Conservatives are still far too reticent when it comes to increasing liberties. Look at the recent successful marijuana-legalization laws. I’m personally ambivalent about them, but I don’t think conservatives should continue to stand apart from libertarians and simply hand this issue to liberals. If it’s a freedom issue, it should be our issue, too. Liberals need to be shown to all the world for what they are: freedom haters. They don’t only want legal pot, they also want free pot and others to be forced to accept and support their lifestyle choices. That’s not freedom. And their politicians are showing how inept they are by instituting such massive taxes on recreational use that the black markets are still thriving. This is yet another opportunity to show them how it’s done, but so far, an opportunity wasted. So to speak.