Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

To Those Worried Their Town Has Voted Wet – It’s Going to Be OK!

This is a “letter of love” to the citizens of Cisco, Texas, the small west central Texas town in which I grew up, and grew up “dry,” as dry as Cisco. This is not to change anyone’s mind on the issue of wet/dry, whether of Cisco or not; it is merely the sharing of what happened to my present home town, Waxahachie, Texas, on the issue of wet/dry. It is also meant to conjure thought upon the issue I’ve not seen considered all that much beyond the boundaries of moral emotion. In the end, I hope the anxiety surrounding the issue will be somewhat eased.

Discussion on this matter is often not very forthcoming, which is a shame. I also hope this serves as an example of how wet/dry discussion can be had without argument fueled by moral judgement. Perhaps this can also be an example of how a community can avoid an issue such as this from being divisive, turning the town into two feuding, non-communicating camps. I would hate divisiveness such as that to happen to “my” beloved Cisco.

Like Waxahachie a couple of years ago, or thereabout, Cisco recently voted wet, wet for the first time in my lifetime and, as far as I know, for the first time going back to the generation of my grandparents. Waxahachie’s change was the first since the first decade of the 20th century. In both cases, I think, it means businesses can sell both wine and beer, as well as eating establishments granted a liquor license selling alcohol as part of their menu. At stores selling alcohol, like grocery stores and convenience stores, no consumption is allowed.

The streets of Waxahachie, since voting for the sale of alcohol, have not run red with the blood of victims of drunk drivers. Accidents involving DWI have, if anything, gone down because fewer people are driving intoxicated, as they now go home from their local store with their purchase and consume it there. For the most part, the bars at the restaurants practice vigilance and restrict drivers as to how many drinks they have. After the vote in Waxahachie, a source of mine in the Chamber of Commerce said revenues from sales tax to the city jumped over a factor of two.

You see, the sale of alcohol is a matter of community economics, not community morality.

I grew up being taught there is something bad or evil in drinking. Like my friend Ruth Schaefer of Cisco, I saw as a child within my own extended family the tragic effects of alcohol abuse. Evidence points to the fact I have Native American ancestry (Eastern Cherokee), putting me possibly at risk of alcoholism, should I choose to drink. Yet now, I write posts on my website entitled “Beyond Good and Evil” articles like Things I’ve Learned at the College Street Pub, Waxahachie, Texas (April, 2012). How come?

Suddenly I’m talking of personal experience. That’s because drinking is a matter of personal taste, not of good and evil. The problem is: drinking alcohol, like all tastes — favorite sports teams, music, and eating — can be abused; like any drug, alcohol can be abused, as, like so many drugs, it can be addictive for so many people and/or it can lead to behavior that can harm or endanger the drinker or others around the drinker. Each individual must confront his or her decision to drink alone; no one can do that for the individual. This is exactly like every person deciding on what his/her tastes should be, whether to drink or not, whether to smoke or not, whether to like sports or not, whether to like this or that music, and whether they need to watch their weight or not.

A lot of people want drinking to be a moral Christian imperative, as if Scripture teaches us the evil of alcohol; I remember that message a lot when I was young sitting the pews and sitting in Sunday School. But drinking being anti-Christian is such a crock of you-know-what. Biblical times, the setting of the origin of Christianity, were times in which alcoholic drinks were the safest thing to drink; Jesus turned the water into wine, as it was probably safer than the water. (Nothing like alcohol to take care of nasty microbes in consumed liquids.) Calvin, one of the leaders of the Reformation and the founder of Presbyterianism, suggested the best place for him to “spread the word” was in drinking establishments of Geneva to listeners over a glass or stein, but the town fathers, unlike so many city leaders of today, did not think that was a good idea. Bottom line, the Bible teaches against drunkenness, not against drinking per se, against the abuse of drinking alcohol, not against the alcohol. In other words, in the Bible, drinking alcohol, like so many other activities, is a matter of temperance. [Lev. 10:8-11, Prov. 20:1, Prov. 23:19-21, Prov. 23:29-35, Hab. 2:12-17, Luke 21:34-36, 1 Thess. 5:6-7]

I learned that “tee-totalers” in Christendom are, because of the points of the above paragraph, a very tiny minority; most adult Christians around the world drink. The Eucharist, done “properly,” normally means using real wine. I would hazard a guess that those denominations like the one in which I grew up, preach total abstinence from alcohol consumption because historically they were made up of families susceptible to higher-than-average numbers of cases of alcoholism.

Like all personal tastes, a person just reaching the drinking age, or an adult suddenly surrounded by opportunities to buy and consume in his/her newly wet home town, must, it seems to me, consider the pros and cons of drinking. Think about it, and talk to willing others about it. In the end, you make your own decision, taking the responsibility of that decision upon yourself. Like my selection of music, my decision to drink was not made upon religious, family, political, or moral considerations.

One always has the right to never drink, and, if the will power is strong enough, stop drinking at a point in time and never drink again. Charles XII, king of Sweden, it is said, went from a drunkard to a convinced “tee-totaler” overnight to please his sister, who was disappointed in him because of his alcohol abuse. If alcoholism is rampant in your extended family (native American or not), my advice is to take the choice not to drink; if your self-restraint and self-control need a lot of improvement, this choice is probably for you. If you cannot fathom risking harming your liver (sclerosis of the liver) over a life time of drinking, then either do not drink, or, do as I did — do not start drinking until later in life; I did not start until I was in the final twenty years of my full-time teaching career.

If you are a convinced “tee-totaler,” please consider doing me this favor: do not judge others if they drink. One of the disappointments I see at the all-school high school reunions at Cisco are self-righteous people with whom I attended school shunning association and communication with their classmates because those classmates have chosen to celebrate with beer and/or wine. Such self-righteousness reeks with pretension that hides inner weakness and fear. Besides, I would prefer spending time with all my drinking friends rather than with the non-drinking ones who morally judge others; the former are much more fun than the latter! And I can help make sure those fun friends who “party” too much make it to bed down safely for the night; it is the least a true friend can do.

Once you reach the drinking age, and you decide you want to drink, consider postponing starting until decades later; should you not postpone, and medical problems develop because of your drinking, just like smokers you must take responsibility for possibly shortening your life. If you have had experience and you know you are what is known as a “bad drunk,” as opposed to a “good drunk,” drinking is probably not a good decision. My son is fond of saying that a person is not going to do anything under the influence of alcohol he or she would not do sober, so, if this is true, you can tell if you would be a “bad drunk” or not without even drinking; ask your friends — they will be honest with you if they are good friends. Personally, I do not like to be around “bad drunks;” they are for me the persons I would never befriend anyway.

If you decide to try drinking and you are a person worried about what others think of what you do or say, and/or, you are far from a risk taker, drinking is probably not going to improve the quality of your life; try developing other tastes. Say you have decided to drink: be always cognizant of your risks — susceptibility to alcoholism, harm to your liver, negative reactions from the self-righteous. What are the advantages of deciding to drink? Those, by contrast, are usually individually discovered, and, certainly, if you do not discover any in your experience, then, for your own sake, stop! But most people do discover advantages that mean something to them and to friends at the “waterholes” of like experience. For me, I enjoy the taste of beer, not wine or liquor. I drink brews because they taste good to me, and I like to try different tastes of beer from all over the world. Most new drinkers discover they are either beer or wine, like either dog lovers or cat lovers; a few like both, maybe even including liquor. But, in my case, I found out the hard way soon after I started that I could not handle distilled spirits (whiskey, tequila, etc.) and I do not like the taste of wine. So, ironically, I am a convinced “tee-totaler” when it comes to liquor, wine, and wine coolers. Margaritas, mixed drinks, and other cocktails have little or no appeal to my taste; I am a beer drinker, period. But I respect the tastes of others in alcohol, and never argue about what others should or should not drink — it is a matter of personal taste, like music and the opposite sex. And, I discovered, gratefully, that despite my ancestry, I am not susceptible to alcoholism.

I love the effect drinking beer with others has in conversation; my inhibitions are naturally low, even when sober, but beer often lowers those in others. Ideas flow more easily; people who are “good drunks” are funny and hilarious; in the words of the Beatles, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.” Many “open up” for a cathartic experience; psychologists are not needed. For me, it is all worth the health risks, especially when I started so late in life.

Moreover, it is now known that alcohol in moderation, 1 or 2 beers or a glass of wine a day is medically good for you; it helps keep your blood vessels unclogged. It is one reason why countries like France and Germany do not have near the cholesterol problems we do here in the US.

Have I always been responsible in my moderation? No, but it has not happened very many times over the years, and I have never put myself in a situation where I am a danger to myself or to others around me. I apologize for any public or private embarrassments my lack of moderation may have caused others in my presence, but, then again, my life is replete with times I’ve made a real ass of myself while stone cold sober; how different is it when I make an ass out of myself when not so sober? I understand the concept of “social drinking” and understand its pleasures and risks. So far, I have not regretted the decision to partake of the fruit of the grain and hops, and, of course, I hope and pray I never do. (As to what beers I prefer, see Things I’ve Learned at the College Street Pub, Waxahachie, Texas (April, 2012).)

As new opportunities to drink appear in Cisco and other places due to recent vote on local resolutions, a little summary of the situation is good to remember: If you decide honestly, you cannot make a bad decision. Should you decide that drinking is not for you, good choice! Just don’t “look down your nose” at those who do choose to imbibe; abstaining from drinking alcohol affords no one any higher moral ground. Should you decide that you would like to try drinking the form of alcohol that suits your taste, good choice! Just develop the habits of moderation and the use of a designated driver when drinking at public places or driving home; be responsible and safe. Both good choices should respect the views of the other side.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of economic advantages a wet community like Cisco has over a dry Cisco.

a) All along I-20, eating establishments, unable to serve alcohol with their meals, have come and gone, save Pizza Heaven and the new Chicken Express; Cisco does not have a nice restaurant which travelers on Interstate and locals can regularly patronize. A good restaurant franchise, like Chili’s or Applebee’s, simply will not set up shop in a dry town; it is not economically feasible to do so. The Cisco Chamber of Commerce has pointed out that the town has a prime site for such a restaurant — the intersection of I-20 and 206 at the west end of town, where the White Elephant used to be. The recent vote may allow for a Chili’s or Applebee’s or some such to do a great business there and at other sites; travelers will stop at a restaurant name they recognize; they are looking for a sure thing more often than for an eating adventure. Think of the jobs available for local professionals and for high school and college students at such a great business.

b) Those of us who own property both inside and outside the city limits of Cisco (I understand property owners living on outlying farms and ranches got to vote on this issue this time.) might well expect a break from the rising property taxes giving us so much concern, given the increased revenue intake from alcohol sales.

I have seen the advantages of a) and b) in “Waxahachie” terms here.

Hope all of you in Cisco who decide to imbibe under the new situation are not “bad drunks.”  Hope I can join you in future at a public place or two inside our beloved town “bending elbows” and sharing Cisco stories. At the very least, I look forward to every time I visit Cisco not having to drive to Putnam or Ranger for my “brewskys.”


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