Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Repeal Day

Repeal Day

Today is repeal day. It's the only time that a constitutional amendment was ratified and all because America wanted to get liquored up. It does make you wonder what exactly happened to cause prohibition in the first place. I mean, joking aside that this was all some idea of fuddy duddy house wives tired that their men, who at once were used to farmhouse ale - a low abv alcoholic drink suddenly getting introduced to hard liquor and not knowing how to deal, and thus calling for it all to be banned seems like the general consonance. 

But joking aside, the temperance movement was largely born out of societies reactions to the widespread alcoholism in the 19th century. It's true that with the advancement in technology with distilling that one could produce a lot more potent liquor now at a very cheap cost. Hell, most farmers were happy they had something to do with their extra corn stocks.

Add in that with the new machines using higher temperatures and pressures made for a higher yield of alcohol per bushel of grain. So yeah, there's a lot of truth to that people used to wine and farmhouse ales suddenly got overwhelmed and didn't know how to handle their own with the new high potent drink. People also drank crazy quantities of the stuff, which lead to an uptick in domestic violence and other social ills.

This is a major reason that women were a major part of the temperance movement. Their husbands were getting hammered and then beating them and their children. The absinthe panic also gave them a boost, though the effects were extremely distorted and most of the deaths were likely caused by adulterations with poisonous compounds to provide coloring and flavoring. You won't actually go crazy, despite what Van Gogh did to his ear, by drinking it.

Hell, for a time during prohibition, our government was actually poisoning liquids that were used to mix into other drinks in making them alcoholic. House cleaners were given far more dosages of toxins to make sure that those who attempted to mix them would be in for a surprise. Many people died through that mean.

And yeah, it does seem like a bit of an extreme, some guys get too drunk, so let's just ban it completely to be safe. The classic method thinking of a panic filled society. It did actually work in our favor. What prohibition did was create a lot of new social norms. Before prohibition it was unheard of for a woman to be in a bar. So in a sense, prohibition created the whole method of taking a gal out to the bar. Dating essentially began. One could argue that this was a stepping stone for women's rights in itself.

There's that famous image that is always associated with the temperance movement. In actuality it's a staged propaganda piece and is meant to mock the movement. In reality, the temperance movement was not so much against alcohol as it was against drunken spousal and child abuse, marital rape, and violence in the street. Which were all starting to get introduced with more easy means of alcohol production.

Ironically enough, it's because of prohibition that we have organized crime. If there's one way to make something worth doing and desirable, it's to make it illegal. More serious crimes and murders happened during prohibition than you could ever imagine with just simple bar room brawls of drunks pre-prohibition.

But it should be worth noting that a lot of the temperance movement was made up of men. It was a great amount of AA sort of mentality and there's a few famouse examples that everyone associated with women's suffrage, and indeed their actions contributed, but the only way the law got passed was through the male support. Which politicians did make up.

One other cause could have been the wave of German immigrants that came with their offerings of their beer styles. The Bush's of the world were very popular, but once World War I hit, well, let's just say that Germans weren't on anyone's favorite list. In a lot of way they were treated like the Muslims of the modern day. So scapegoating them and making sure they didn't succeed was a big driving force that politicians played to gather voter sympathy as well play on their fears.

What also resulted in prohibition was NASCAR. Which is a strange tale indeed, but the need for a faster car to run your moonshine across state lines was the motivating force to racing cars that we have no today.

So raise a glass tonight in honor of the day when you could officially and legally sell and make alcohol. Because let's be honest, there was plenty of drinking being done during prohibition.

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