I had an idea.
I received an essay from a student arguing that the drinking age should be lowered to 18. I have seen this argument before, and believe me, this was not the cleverest attempt; this student failed to offer even the traditional outrage over the idea that one could join the military and fight and die for one’s country, but not even buy a beer! I mean, come on!
I’ve been looking for the just-right response to that particular “argument” for years. I’m trying to choose between, “If you cut off your left hand, you can’t cut off your right. Is that fair?” or “You’re right. And you know what else? Boko Haram lets their soldiers drink.” or “I heard you can make a lovely Cosmopolitan out of the blood of a slain enemy and just a little wasabi. I bet the Army lets them drink THAT.”
Although I did not have the opportunity to appreciate, again, the absurdity of being allowed to shoot people and not be drunk while doing it, I did get to enjoy my very favorite class of argument: the “Everyone on Earth thinks like a perverse, obnoxious adolescent” argument. In this instance, it goes something like this: People think drinking is cool because it is against the law, and teenagers want to be rebellious. Teenagers do things for no other reason than because people tell them not to do those things. Therefore, if the drinking age were lowered and kids had access to alcohol, it wouldn’t seem so tempting and dangerous, and therefore fun and cool and stick-it-to-the-man-y, and so they wouldn’t do it as much.
Ah, yes. Many times I have thought, “You know what would be cool? Building an addition without a permit. That would really impress my biker buddies.” Whenever I need street cred — and I can’t count the times I have needed to cash in on my street cred — I just fail to report an accident, or I make a fake 911 call. Because I’m a thug, and thug life means jaywalking, yo. I’ve always been a rebel: I remember back in high school, one morning I told my bathroom mirror, “I’m going to falsify legal documents. Yeah: then the head cheerleader will notice me!”
It worked, too.
But while I was reading this particular essay, and trying to think of the best way to point out how absurd is the argument that laws against certain behaviors actually make those behaviors more attractive and therefore more common (I usually ask if the student thinks that murder would become less common if the laws against it were eliminated. Just picture all those murderers thinking, “Yeah, sure, I could go out and kill someone tonight. But where’s the spice, without running from the cops? Unless I’m risking jail time, there just doesn’t seem any reason to kill people. Sigh. I miss the good ol’ days.”), I got to the conclusion, which argued that things would be a whole lot better for everyone if drinking were considered an individual right, not a fascinating vice.
That’s when it hit me.
That student was absolutely right.
The key is not making things legal: the key is making something a right. That’s how you get people to walk away from it.
Just think: our forefathers fought for the right to build a government based on the rule of law and the basic principle of democracy, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And they won that right, too. Then it only took us 200 years or so to tear the whole thing down and replace it with Citizens United, and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and the Wall Street bailout, and the Keystone Pipeline: a government that represents money and power, and nothing else. A government of the rich (or at least only interested in the rich), by their puppets, for the profit margin.
Know why they do that? Because we’ve been told for years that greed and corruption are wrong. That makes them cool. (I can’t tell you how tempted I am right now to turn this whole thing against God and the Ten Commandments. But the problem with that is the Bible actually supports the claim that I’m currently mocking: after all, God told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple, and they did exactly that, and lost Paradise for us all.
Come to think of it, this bullshit really is the Bible’s fault.)
Then for decades, people fought against slavery, fought for the freedom not to be treated as a commodity. They won that, too, after struggle and war and destruction. And now we happily enslave ourselves: we work harder and for less reward than any other people of any other civilized nation. We do whatever the boss says, whenever the boss says it — you’ll never see a better example of this than teachers. “Why are we giving up the things we know are right for our students, like actual literature and field trips and creative endeavors? Because the boss says we have to raise test scores. Well, then, I guess we have to do it. Somebody pass me that stack of Scantrons.” We all happily give up our free will, duck our heads, bow and scrape, and do what we are told. Some of us even become Ditto-heads, and Moonies, and Beliebers; we “Let go, and let God.”
We have the right to vote: we don’t do it. We have the right to speak freely: we are silent. We have the right to a free press: we stopped reading the ones that spoke the truth, and now we have Fox News and CNN. We have the right to peaceably assemble, and we stay at home and tag each other on Facebook. We have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and instead we simply grieve.
It’s true: make something a right, and we can’t run away from it fast enough.
Therefore, I am advocating for the right to murder, the right to hate, and the right to celebrate and enforce ignorance. I believe all Americans should have the right to exploit each other, the right to feel no compassion for any other living thing, and the right to pervert and corrupt every goodness on Earth for the sake of instant gratification and petty, spiteful vengeance. Screw that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness stuff; we need to have those rights taken away. Life and liberty — and happiness — should be outlawed. Then they’ll be cool.
Then we’ll want them. Like everything else we can’t have.
So I hereby stand corrected in my basic intent as a blogger: we do not need to fight for the natural rights of man, we do not need to fight for justice, nor peace, nor love.
We need to fight for the right to treat each other, and ourselves, like dirt. The right to drink beer. And bacon: definitely the right to bacon.