June 04, 2007

Trouble In Iowa City.

Iowa City has a drinking problem. It seems that the cities drinking establishments have a large potential customer base that can't drink because they are below the legal age. Iowa City is of course a college town, the home of the University of Iowa. (GO Hawks!) With a student population of 29,000 there lies a largely untapped market for the local bar trade. Iowa City is now playing fast and loose with the state drinking age of 21 by allowing the underaged to hang out in the bars but they can't drink. And of course pigs can fly.
I came across this issue at Iowa blogger State 29 and I was immediately thrown into one of those deja-vu moments;
On the other hand, and this blog has stated this many times before, if legal adults at 18, 19, and 20 years of age can get married, divorced, have babies, enter into contracts, join our country's military, drive a car, fly a plane, start a business, declare bankruptcy, and go $100,000 debt on a college education, they should be able to walk into a bar and have a drink. Why are we treating them like children?

It was about 1970 at the height of a very unpopular war. Not only couldn't you drink at 18 but you could be drafted into the military and you didn't even have the power to vote the establishment bastards out of office. (Hell no we won't go). Sure you could do all those other things that State 29 mentioned but the government has a hard time regulating stupid, so in the interest of fairness the country said "We are going to eliminate these double standards."
In 1971 the 26th Amendment to the Constitution granting the right to vote at 18 was passed. By 1973 the draft was ended and states around the country began to lower the drinking age. It was time to party like it's 1969! In Iowa it was done incrementally, first lowered to 19 then the following year to 18. Although at 16 I didn't know anyone 21 that would buy us alcohol it wasn't hard to find a willing accomplice that was 19. By 17 me and most of my high school class were getting into several local bars no questions asked.
By the late seventies a trend was apparent that caused the states to rethink their decision. Teens in disproportionate numbers were killing themselves and others which resulted in the formation of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and Drunks Against Mad Mothers. It was found that drunk driving is a skill that most people two years out of drivers ed are just not prepared for. Sure, most teens are reasonably able to keep it between the ditch's, that's the easy part, but there are certain skills that can only come with maturity. Such as being able to drive with one eye closed to counter that pesky double vision thing, or maintaining control as you hurl down Highway 30 with your head hanging out of the window. But it takes years of practice before you can jump a curb and have a trooper follow you for five miles without getting arrested. All these things are best left to the professionals.
So to answer State 29's question it's because in many ways they still are children. The time between 18 and 21 should be a time of learning, an apprenticeship so to speak. A time to sneak out, tie one on occasionally, and by the time your 21 you will have at least mastered that god awful bed spinning problem and perhaps know the best way to get your dates dinner, along with several bottles of Boone's Farm, out of the cars upholstery.

Why 21?

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