A fallacy often leveled at any effort to control the sale of alcohol is that prohibition was a total failure. Yet the best of research reveals just the opposite. In fact, William J. Bennett, former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under former President George H.W. Bush, has written:

"One of the clear lessons of prohibition is that when we had laws against alcohol there was less consumption, less alcohol-related disease, fewer drunken brawls, and a lot less drunkenness. Contrary to myth, there is no evidence that prohibition caused any big increases in crime .... The real facts are these: As a result of prohibition, 180,000 saloons were shut down, and 1,800 breweries went out of business. In ten years of prohibition, the death rate due to alcohol decreased 42%, the death rate due to cirrhosis of the liver decreased by 70%, crime decreased by 54%, and insanity decreased by 66%."

There's a story of a woman who stood near the magistrate who was hearing a case against her husband. Somehow her sad look and disposition touched the heart of the judge, and he said to her, "Ma'am, I'm so very sorry, but I have no choice except to lock up your husband." Replied the woman: "Your honor, wouldn't it be better for me and the children if you locked up the local bars and let my husband go to work?"

It's hard to understand America's love affair with this product, which Jack Van Impe once called, "The Beloved Enemy." Recently, I visited a local drug store where a sign on one of the shelves read: "As a leader in efforts to control methamphetamine abuse, we restrict the sale and placement of all products containing pseudoephedrine." Yet alcohol is America's number-one drug problem and little is done by business or government to stringently restrict the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Only last week, Dell recalled thousands of defective computer batteries that could burst into flames when used in their computers. Yet 40% of all fire deaths in this country are alcohol-related -- and there's no recall on beer, wine or liquor.

Mel Gibson's alcohol problem is simply a reflection of a much deeper national issue. As evident in this case, America's focus is blurred by its love for booze, choosing to practically disregard Gibson's drinking problem while at the same time spotlighting his regrettable anti-Semitic remarks. Generally speaking, the nation fails to recognize the nature of this extremely socially sensitive product. Should a plague of sorts be inflicted by some other country or terrorist cell such as is seen daily from alcohol, the U.S. would likely rise up in a declaration of war against that power. Nevertheless, Americans are content to embrace this "legal product," enjoying the buzz of a drunken stupor and the temporary break from reality it provides, all the while ignoring its harm to others and one's own impending hangover.

But don't expect the Mel Gibson situation to spur any serious discussions on this issue anytime soon. The national conscience is too drunk right now to talk about it.

Rev. Mark H. Creech (calact@aol.com) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
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