2009-10-07 / Opinions

Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses

BY REV. DAVID MCCLOSKEY

Greetings and peace to all. After surviving my first Maritime Festival, I felt an observational piece was due. I want to reiterate this is an observational piece and not a criticism. It is meant to provoke thoughts and conversation. Prior to going to seminary in St. Louis, we lived in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia. It was a great place to begin our family - except for one thing. The number-one crime committed in the entire state was Driving Under the Influence. When we lived there, it outranked other crimes by several percentage points. This meant every time we would venture out on a Friday or Saturday night (to the store or visit a friend) we were at a greatly increased chance of being in an auto accident with someone who was impaired by alcohol. Fast forward to the summer of 2009 and the Maritime Festival at Harbor Beach.

Our first experience of the Maritime Festival was very exciting. It was really great to see all the activity happening in our fair little community. There were lots of people. There was a lot of good food. There was a lot of good music. There was a lot of exciting race action - and there was lots of alcohol being consumed. One surprising fact is that, even with all the alcohol, there seemed to be very little trouble, but this is misleading. In fact, the use and abuse of alcohol are leading factors in many of today’s societal problems and in the Thumb the problem is even more pronounced.

When a seminarian gets his first call, part of preparing for his new ministry is to get to know the area. Part of this entails doing statistical research about the town or city, the county and state where they will be taking the call. My research found that marital satisfaction was the numberone problem for the area - but this was followed very closely with alcohol abuse and the problems it causes. When I compare this information with conversations I have had with “native” HBer’s, we find a very interesting societal view of alcohol. Statistics from 2006 show that about 50 percent of all kids age 12 and up have had some exposure (personal consumption) to alcohol. While I don’t have the statistics to back it up, my suspicion is that you would find relatively the same statistics for other agricultural areas within the United States. This information begs the question of, ”Why?”

Why is there a seemingly different social view of alcohol in this area? That is, Why do we have such a high percentage of very young people consuming alcohol? After talking to many people, I believe the part of the answer is because this is a farming area. Before farming became as mechanized as it is now, it was even more physically demanding. “Many hands make light work” was the mantra of the times. So, you would have several men, including young boys, out in the heat loading hay and, when they would stop for lunch, a lot of them would have a cold beer or two with their meal. Many times the younger boys were allowed to have some beer as well because everybody knew that they would sweat it out from hard physical labor in the afternoon sun. But, as time and technology advanced, the physical nature of farming has become somewhat less. But the acceptance of allowing younger kids to have some alcohol has not changed and for the most part this only leads to a life of greater tolerance and dependence on alcohol.

This leads me back to where I began, the Maritime Festival. As I walked around and saw all that was happening I was greatly enthused by all that I saw. But my enthusiasm was dampened by the amount of alcohol consumed. Not because of some sense of superior self-righteousness but because of the sadness I see in each and every one of the cans of beer. Alcoholism is not defined by the amount of alcohol consumed but by the loss of control over drinking alcohol. It is not that you drink “x” number of beers a day - it is why you drink and losing the control to stop drinking when it begins to affect other parts of your life (social, job, family, spiritual, etc.)

I hope this article has caused you to think and begin conversation that lead to healing and restoration.

Pastor Dave

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