DailyKOS writer, Mark E. Anderson, wrote of his musings with the question, “When did America Get So Damn Uptight?” I wonder the same things sometimes.
Anderson points out that it started during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. During that time, the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. Anderson was very mad at that because he was 17 at the time.
In 1982, Reagan established the Presidential Commission Against Drunk Driving (PCDD) because the country had an “epidemic” of people Driving Under the Influence, also known as DUIs. They came up with 39 recommendations to curb young people’s drinking. The list included all states raising the drinking age to 21.
The campaign was supposed to be about drinking and driving at any age, but the quest to raise the drinking age to 21 turned the public’s attention to young people drinking. It’s such an arbitrary number, though because people of any age can end up getting a DUI.
Young people can vote and serve in the military at 18, but can’t have a beer. If you are going to go off and fight for your country, you should be able to have a beer. I agree with Anderson on this point; teenagers will still find ways to drink.
Also during this time, Reagan was ignoring the outbreak of AIDS. The Christian Right used this as a way to bring the sexual revolution to a halt. Fundamentalists used this disease to preach against the LGBT community.
Anderson also mentioned the case of “Baby Jessica” McClure. The McClure family made international news when their baby fell down a well. Now, every time a child goes missing or gets hurt badly, we hear about it all over the news.
These stories make it seem like the world has gotten worse, but really, we just sensationalize these kinds of stories.
In the next decade, we had the Columbine shooting. Parents worried (and still do worry) about taking their children to school after the shooting. This led to the creation of “zero-tolerance” laws meant to help curb violence.
These so-called “zero tolerance” schools enforce the laws exactly as you’d expect; much too strictly, and they end up having kids in trouble for stupid things. Some ridiculous cases of kids getting in trouble over stupid things happen a lot in what’s so- called “zero tolerance” schools.
Anderson asked, “What will it take to get us back to where we once were?” I have the same question.
Some of these rules are necessary. We need some laws to help stop children from fighting. We need to not let really young people drink, but where does it stop? Have we gotten too uptight as a nation?
Watch Dennis Malloy talk about Americans being so “uptight about drinking,”