Higgins: If it saves one freedomWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was listening to the webcast of a radio show on Toledo’s 1370 WSPD called “Echoes of Ireland” this weekend to re-immerse myself in a bit of Irish culture and music with hosts John Connolly and Ted McHugh in the hopes of renewing my spirit.
My solace was short-lived however, when one of the hosts spoke of returning from a recent trip back to the Emerald Isle. I can’t recall which it was; but he carried the sad news to pass on that the long famous Irish pub culture appears to be dying, especially in the rural areas of the country. It seems that the DUI laws in Ireland have seen a fair bit of change in recent years (much as they have here) and that zero tolerance for violations of the .05 blood alcohol level has seen the arrest levels rise at an alarming rate.
Now to understand this, one must first take a step back and realize that the “pub” culture (short for public house) is different in Ireland than the bar culture in the U.S. Pubs are often places of family gathering for communities, where live music is performed and the political and social events of the country are widely discussed. Certainly a pint or two is consumed, and even a glass of whiskey or wine; but these actions are taken without the often frenzied efforts of escaped prison inmates that often seems to happen in this country.
One should also understand the .05 blood alcohol limitation, which is lower than the once traditional .10 of days past and the .08 that the federal government now often “encourages” with highway tax dollars. One 12-ounce beer, one six ounce glass of wine, or a one ounce shot of whiskey an hour is enough to put the average person at or slightly over the .10 limit. A drink before dinner and a glass of wine with it therefore, will put the average person in danger of arrest. You can therefore imagine what even one 16-ounce beer consumed an hour will do with a .05 limit.
Many recognize the potential of having had one too many, leave their cars, and take a cab home. Not to be out maneuvered however, the Irish police have taken notice of vehicles parked overnight near pubs, and arrested the previous night’s merrymakers when they come to claim their cars in the morning. Alcohol is after all, burned off by the body only slowly, and the chances are good that someone who took a cab home retains enough in their system to fail in the morning, the test they avoided the night before. As a result of such government intervention, pubs all over the country are either restricting hours or closing altogether as the number of their patrons fall victim.
“Who cares?” you say. “No one wants those impaired by alcohol on the streets anyway. After all, if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.” Besides what have Irish DUI laws to do with the U.S.? And of course you’re right in saying that we don’t want impaired drivers on the streets, but having first increased enforcement, one should also be asking about the increasingly restrictive nature of such laws.
Might I suggest that a population that increasingly stays at home, rather than risk violating the law or regulation, is an easier one to control. Might I add that one that does not gather together in public places is less likely to find common ground with each other, let alone common fault with those ruling them. Add this to the increasingly onerous rules and regulations imposed by the Department of Homeland Security and their Keystone Kops at the TSA, and it doesn’t take wearing a tin foil hat to believe that there could be a conscious strategy at work here. Tie it with a bow of random street shootings in cities across the nation that far too often go unsolved and it makes a suspiciously perfect package
Societies in the U.S. and around the world, have become increasingly insular and isolated. With Xbox 360, Wii, Netflix and cable television, we are increasingly a citizenry that seeks its entertainments alone within the four walls of a home that continues to provide at least a modicum of protection from a creeping incursion on our freedom to do anything outside the imprisonment we compel upon ourselves. We sit often mindlessly in front of televisions, ingesting endorphin-raising snacks in a sorry substitute for the effects that a little exercise once gave. We lock ourselves in a supposed cocoon of electronic safety (and sometimes anonymity) to socialize on the Internet, and only with those who agree with us, rather than gathering in face-to-face networking situations that would provide the very shot of adrenaline stimulation that most of us need.
Perhaps it’s not too late yet however. Maybe there’s still time to get ourselves off of our collective duff and fight a trend being subliminally foisted upon us. There might even be time to have serious (and civil) discussion on real issues before the fall election, rather than those that the willing co-conspirator of a mainstream media doles out to keep us distracted and amused. After all, if just one freedom is saved, isn’t it worth it?