Segregation of a Different Sort
“If we [adults between 18 and 21] can still be trusted enough to fight in wars, if we can be trusted enough to vote for our leaders, if we can be trusted enough to have sex, then why the hell can’t we be trusted with a glass of wine?” Shamed Dogan
By law, anyone 18 years and older will be tried as an adult in court, is allowed to vote, and is required to pay taxes. On one’s 18th birthday the law no longer views him as a child yet he is restricted from many places of social activity. Bars and many dance clubs are strictly for those 21 and over due to the legal drinking age in America, so many legal adults are not permitted entry. Clearly a discrepancy exists between an 18 year old adult and a 21 year old adult; however, since they are viewed by law as equals shouldn’t they have the same privileges? Obviously certain laws that regulate activities by age are necessary. Voting, alcohol, and driving should not be available to people of any age because of the amount of responsibility these activities require. However the segregation between younger and older adults is unwarranted.
Up until 1984 the legal drinking age was 18, however Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) spurred a campaign to raise the age limit to 21. They succeeded with the passage of the National Minimum Purchase Age Act in 1984. (Shamed, Legal Drinking) The law aimed to lower the number of drunk driving accidents, which it has done, but only by a small margin. However, what it has also done is reduce the rights of citizens between the ages of 18 and 21.
Americans hold personal freedom to be an undeniable right. The right to drink one’s self into a drunken state still falls under the personal rights category; however, this basic freedom is restricted by the implementation of the 1984 law. Instead of being able to have complete control over one’s life when they reach the legal age of adulthood, citizens are forced to wait an additional three years for an equal level of freedom. A need for drinking regulation definitely exists, yet it needs to coincide with other laws defining adult privileges. All rights would be gained simultaneously and lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would erase the discrepancy that now exists.
Furthermore the temptation to undermine the law through underage drinking would be greatly decreased. For many college students that fall in between years of legal adulthood and legal drinking age, the desire to drink is spurred by getting away with something they are not supposed to be doing. According to “Dan,” an English exchange student, the typical college student would not feel the need to have a binge drinking party if he were allowed into the local bar. The need to throw private drinking parties would no longer be prevalent because the accessibility of alcohol would no longer be in question.
Lowering the legal drinking age would also create a plethora of social events for those 18 and older. Currently many dance clubs are strictly for those 21 and over because the establishment serves alcohol. This leaves the remainder of the adult populous to find their own forms of entertainment, counter productive or otherwise. If these bored adults were allowed to participate in more activities there would be less people idling on the streets. Society as a whole would be better off because there would be less illegal activity taking place. This could entail underage drinking or more serious matters engaged by those with spare time and nowhere to go.
If more young adults were drinking in public places as opposed to dorm rooms the possibility of excessive drinking would be lowered. The number of people present and the way in which bars and clubs are run provide the structured environment necessary to promote safer drinking. It is far less likely for someone to die of alcohol poisoning in a bar than in a private home because the number of people capable of recognizing alcohol related problems greatly increases.
The adult population between the ages of 18 and 21 has been oppressed by the injustice of age based segregation for over a decade, and it is time for something to be done. The legal drinking age needs to be lowered to fit the remainder of the country’s standards of adulthood.