Utah’s draconian liquor laws have been written to protect Mormons from non-Mormons. Utah’s State Legislature believes those who don’t drink need to be protected from those who do.
Members of the Utah State Legislature in control of liquor policy have said that wine-coolers are “a date-rape drug.” Further, they have imposed the “Zion Curtain” on new Utah restaurants that serve liquor, forcing them to build a separate room for mixing drinks, imposing further complications on Salt Lake City’s ski tourism industry.
These measures are all a part of a larger problem with Utah called “The Great Divide”. Only a few Utah politicians have made attempts to bridge this divide. Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. was loved by both sides, because he didn’t allow special interests to affect his policy decisions. But Utah’s Legislature, wishes to continue to treat anyone who is non-Mormon in a morally condescending manner.
I have a unique perspective on this divide; I have one foot on each side: half of my family is non-Mormon and half are Mormons. I have Grandparents who don’t drink and only see the harmful effects of alcohol, but my Grandfather on my non-Mormon side was the son of a bootlegger during Prohibition.
Seeing these two sides, I’ve always thought there needs to be a simple guide to explain alcohol to both Mormons and nons, this small treaty is my work to that end. In this guide I’ll examine parenting, lawmaking, cultural and historical issues related to improving perceptions and misconceptions related to alcohol consumption and legislation.
Good Parenting vs. Bad Parenting on Alcohol Consumption
Most kids who turn 21 are naturally inclined to go through a modern rite of passage and at least try beer and possibly get drunk. Some Mormon kids may never touch alcohol, but most will. No amount of parenting, rules, laws or legislation is going to stop kids from getting drunk, nor should they, because as kids become adults they need to learn to make decisions for themselves.
Parents can however, teach their kids to set limits and understand the danger of losing control. Its kids who drink without limits, without education that get into trouble, I’ve witnessed it. Kids who have parents who drink responsibly do fine, while the kids who have parents who only say “Never drink! Alcohol is evil!” —don’t know when to stop.
I need to digress and explain why I use the word “kids”: by kids I mean late teen and early twenties who are not yet “young adults” because society and parents now assume even 18-25 year-olds are still kids too young and unable to make decisions for themselves. It’s for these kids, that the Utah State Legislature passed the Zion Curtain law.
But what Zion Curtain proponents don’t realize is that parents can teach their— adolescent pre-adult, juveniles— that getting drunk, is not a social activity, it’s an anti-social behavior. Ever seen a really drunk person trying to socialize? It doesn’t work so well; brain synapses misfire, things get sloppy and nobody wants to be around a sloppy drunk. And a sure way to never progress from being a kid to an adult is to make a habit out of getting drunk. Kids can lose their entire twenties, believing they are enjoying life to the fullest by regularly getting drunk or wasted.
You kids are making us responsible Mormons and non-Mormons look bad—grow up! And parents, and Zion Curtainists, (I realize this isn’t a word) you need to help your kids to grow up first by allowing them to make decisions for themselves and second by kicking them out if they make a habit out of drunk or wasted.
False Information Causes Parents to Lose Their Authority
The misconception among many Mormons is that those who drink turn into a sloppy drunks. As soon as anyone starts drinking beer Dr. Jekyll immediately turns into maniacal Mr. Hyde. It’s this alarmist view that causes kids to lose respect for their parents’ authority, and caused many of my friends to not take their parent’s advice seriously and rebel.
I learned in my twenties, despite my upbringing, that drinking beer—not to get wasted, but in moderation, and socially among friends— is great! It relieves social tension, stress; it produces the right amount of inhibition to lead to good conversation. But this fact is lost due to inaccurate perceptions on both sides of the religious divide.
Media Glamorization of Alcohol Abuse
Despite what the media propagates and glamorizes, getting drunk is an anti-social behavior. While a young adult might be fine occasionally drinking with friends— those who make alcohol abuse a routine can quickly watch their lives run down the toilet.
I share this because it took me several severe near catastrophic personal occasions as well as witnessing a lot of friends and family suffering from alcoholism before I realized how terrible and destructive alcohol abuse can be on the lives of good people.
Traveling around Europe, I’ve found that “alcoholism” is much more common in the U.S. than anywhere else. I’ve been contemplating why Europe isn’t full of alcoholics when they have so much easier access to liquor and beer in their supermarkets and pubs on every other block?
This is because our American media glamorizes alcohol abuse. Our media follows the most sloven, drunken celebrity figures, and most movies about kids, are about them getting wasted: Superbad, American Pie, Knocked-Up, The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, are just a few recent examples.
But there is a non-main-stream perception regarding drinking that is becoming more popular which is: locally hand-crafted beer is great! And you don’t need to pound 20 before they finally start tasting good! One great Squatters, Wasatch, Uinta, Desert Edge, Red Rock or Epic Beer and you enter into a peaceful non-inebriated existence!
I have come to appreciate the craftsmanship, culture and history of great beer. And while enjoying the quality I drink less. I love beer, but I have other friends who have done the same with wine and whiskey.
Tomorrow, read the next part of this guide which examines culture and history. Its entitled How Monks became the Patron Saints of Beer and Lead Europe out of the Dark Ages. It’s a great history lesson, I’m sure everyone will enjoy.
Also pick up Utah Stories’ March issue of How Beer Saved Utah, found at the finest brew pubs, restaurants and stores all along the Wasatch Front. Subscribe to Utah Stories (top-right) to have our online exclusives delivered directly to your e-mail inbox. Or if you aren’t near where Utah Stories are found, or it’s no longer March 2012, order your copy online for just $4.00.