To the editor:
Historically, U.S. public law welcomes 18-year-olds as full citizens while demanding they take responsibility for their actions. Then in the 1980s, the Reagan administration threatened to deny federal highway funds to any state that didn't enact a "21 or over" drinking law.
State lawmakers who had enjoyed drinking legally since their own 18th birthdays soon voted to criminalize alcohol for the 18-21 age group behind them an act of hypocrisy and generational hostility in the eyes of previously legal young adults now forced underground to drink.
Here's how this "underground" still works.
1. A group of 18-21-year-olds decides to drink beer.
2. They need a large volume of beer at one time, since individual small purchases risk detection.
3. Someone 21 or older buys their beer.
4. To avoid capture, the group meets at night in a secluded rural spot.
5. While drinking, the group litters to rid their vehicles of incriminating trash.
6. The group rapidly drinks ALL their beer, to avoid being caught with illegal beverages in their possession.
7. Inexperienced members "over-drink" (too much, too fast).
8. The group disperses and impaired drivers menace public roadways.
Twenty years ago, 18-21-year-olds could legally drink with older adults and learn from equals how to consume alcohol safely. Today, a mean-spirited policy of disrespect isolates millions of otherwise respectful young adults and pushes them to become secretive, litter-throwing, drunk-driving binge drinkers.
Seems our crusade against "underage" drinking is giving us exactly what we don't want.