Afterwards, as is often my wont after a speech, I sought merriment and libation with the youth (note to campus conservatives groups: post-oratory drinks with Jonah is part of the standard Goldberg-speaker-package!). The gang from the College Republicans and other like-minded youth repaired to the guest house. While this was a standard chips-and-soda fete, one young man of courage and conviction was willing to search out the medicinal liquids I required. He had only recently had his cast removed from a wrestling injury and he was eager to muster his new locomotive power in the cause of responsible potation. I shall ever be in his debt.
Anyway, while I was imbibing my beverage(s) along with the few young scholars of legal drinking age, a couple of the guys brought an interesting cultural development to my attention. Several of the young squires under the age of 21 informed me that they don’t drink because it is against the law. One very bright fellow in particular assured me that when he’s 21 he will avail himself of legal inebriants, but until that time he did his very best to eschew the demon rum (and scotch and beer etc). He also assured me that he was not alone in this attitudinal forbearance of illegal imbibition.
Now, personally, I find this fascinating and completely beyond the scope of my experience. I’ve met all sorts of college kids (and others) who don’t drink because they don’t want to. I’ve met college kids who don’t drink due to religious considerations, academic priorities, medical or family history, preferences for certain ignitable greenery, whatever. I respect all of those choices.
Until last night, I had never met anybody who said that they don’t drink because the law says they shouldn’t. I’m trying hard not to mock or be condescending because these were good dudes and seemed pretty normal. And, there’s really no reason on the merits to mock. Still, I am torn between two conflicting impulses. On the one hand the Bluto Blutarsky in me wanted to smash a beer can on my head and say, Have a beer, don’t cost nuthin.
On the other hand, on paper this is all perfectly reasonable and even, I suppose, admirable. It’s entirely plausible to me that I am in the wrong for having been so flabbergasted. But, I associate college so much with social drinking; I have such an ingrained and generalized contempt for the 21 drinking age; and I’ve simply never met anybody who used this explanation before, let alone heard that this is a fairly widely held attitude among college students. It makes me rethink the power of the law to shape culture in America.