Tuesday, November 13, 2007

mad mothers.

I've been noticing increasingly outlandish campaigns by MADD over the last few years, and I've come to the firm conclusion that the Mothers Against Drunk Driving have morphed into the new American Temperance Society.

I read about a recent court case where two parents let their son have a party for his sixteenth birthday at their house. Knowing that the kids would most likely drink clandestinely at a different house otherwise, the parents let the guests drink beer at their house. They collected all the car keys from the guests upon arrival, and the party commenced, roughly half the teenagers present having some beer in the course of the evening. Everyone was picked up at the end of the evening, and there were no accidents or drunk driving arrests.

Well, somebody told their parents about this event, someone called the cops on the parents, and they were charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, thirty charges. The parents were convicted and sentenced to two years in jail each.

Now, whether you think they did a smart thing or a dumb thing by letting those kids have beer in a supervised and controlled setting, think about the implications of that punishment for a moment. Here you have two adults who will go to jail for two years, most likely lose their house and livelihoods as a result, and two teenagers who will be separated from their parents and forced to live with relatives or in foster care. Now, if the original reason for the law was the avoidance of harm to children, can such a punishment truly said to be in their interest?

There was a "Point/Counterpoint" talk on one of the news networks, where an advocate for the family squared off against a representative from MADD. The MADD guy (huh? when did he become a mother?) basically parroted that it was a just sentence, because "they broke the law". His entire argument was centered around that mantra, and he repeated it as much as he could. He tried to back up his argument with the anecdote of a kid from the same high school as those partygoers, who had died recently in a drunk-driving accident, and therefore there was some sort of message that needed to be sent.

From where I'm sitting, it looks like the parents did their level best to prevent drunk driving, and they succeeded--none of the kids got behind the wheel of a car, whether they had been drinking or not. The absolute best way to increase the drunk driving fatalities among teenagers is to forbid them from drinking altogether, thereby assuring they meet in out-of-the-way places without supervision, and then get killed on the way home.

It's funny how many conservatives can get bent out of shape about the liberal approach to guns and gun safety education. That approach is "Don't touch it, don't even think about it, and pretend it doesn't exist until you're twenty-one." Well, many of the conservatives use the very same approach with alcohol and sex...they know it makes no sense to introduce the thrill of the forbidden and couple it with a lack of education when it comes to guns, but they're shocked and dismayed when the same approach results in the US having the leading rates of youth drunk driving deaths and teenage pregnancies in the industrialized world.

Anyway, MADD is no longer against drunk driving, they're against all forms of alcohol consumption that could conceivably result in someone driving while intoxicated--which means they're against alcohol consumption, period. If they were for the prevention of drunk driving, they wouldn't applaud two parents having their lives destroyed and getting locked up with drug dealers and rapists for two years--and their kids having to go into foster care--because they told themselves, "Hey, the kids are going to have beer anyway...why don't we make sure they do it without harming themselves or others?"

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