Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Prohibition Was Distinctly Anti-Catholic"

Rightly notes a commenter to Elizabeth Hanna's article rightly arguing that "the legal drinking age has only glorified the appeal of alcohol consumption and muddled our conception of what ought to be our boundaries, and who or what should be blamed when we cross them" — It's Time to Get Rid of the Drinking Age. Says the commenter,
    Prohibition had a strong 'anti-foreigner' and anti-Catholic bias especially against the Italians, Irish and Poles, Bohemians and other immigrants. The result, of course, was the greatest alcoholic binge in world history. An alliance of liberal protestant ministers and spinsterish New England busy-bodies and their 'purity' crusades have reached their nightmarish. apotheosis in modern political correctness.
Says Miss Hanna,
    The truth is, alcohol is a blessing, and we should be careful where we place our blame when we abuse it. By faulting alcohol itself, we curse a beautiful gift, thus offending the Giver and denying the true source of the problem. Alcohol abuse isn't an inherent consequence of alcohol, but rather a manifestation of our own tendency to sin.

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Blogger Scott said...

All agreeable stuff here.

If the word 'marijuana' is inserted in place of 'alcohol', and replace 'Italians, Irish,
etc. with 'blacks' and perhaps 'anti-war hippies', what's the difference?

7:42 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

You'll find no complaints from this former pot smoker.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

First, marijuana isn't a deeply culturally embedded substance like alcohol. From fine dining to religion, alcohol is a part of western civilization. Pot isn't. Alcohol use in moderation leads to a vivification of the spirit. Pot use just dulls the mind. No comparison.

Second, prohibition wasn't just anti-Catholic, it was anti-German-American (it really got started during WWI), anti-Polish and anti-Italian as well. Two of those groups were overwhelmingly Catholic (the Polish-Americans and Italian-Americans) and the other group was overwhelmingly Catholic & Lutheran (kind of Catholic-lite). While religion was definitely a part of it, there was also a lot of ugly ethnic bashing too.

2:55 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


I'm glad that you posted this. I was just thinking about Prohibition the other day and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what American Catholics did for Communion wine during that time. I asked an American lady and she said she thinks the ban did not include altar wine.

PS--I occasionally force wine down my brothers' throats and encourage them to sneak sips of my Baileys. It is my hope that when they are a bit older and their friends break out some "forbidden" bottles, they drink in moderation because: a) they know their limits; and b) drinking is something they do with their dopey, uncool older sister, so it really can't be all that.

5:48 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Mark, I believe pot was first banned during the Jazz Age, because blacks had turned whites on to it. You're right, cannibis should not be enshrined as is alcohol, because the latter lacks the civilizational cred of the former, but it need not be criminalized. I think you and I may have agreed about the difference between decriminalization and legalization, favoring the former but opposing the latter.

Enbrethiliel, I could have used a big sis like you! My first experience with alcohol was sneaking a shot each from every bottle in my parents' liquor cabinet. Needless to say, it did not turn out well, and to this day I really don't like hard alcohol (except for gin, for some reason).

6:14 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Alcohol doesn't just have more civilizational cred, it has a sociability cred as well. As Christopher Hitchens has pointed out, it makes food taste better, it stimulates conversation, it improves social congress. Drugs like pot, coke, heroin, etc., provide none of those benefits. They aren't a way of bringing people together over a meal, in a conversation, etc -- it is a way of atomizing one's experience. Alcohol is about community -- that's why it is such a marker in both Christianity and Judaism -- Eucharist and Seder. Pot and the other drugs are just about people tuning out, getting lost in their own stupor. I guess that''s probably why libertarians like them so much!

We have been undergoing a little experiment in decriminalization here in Spokane lately. We have "medical marijuana dispensaries" all over the city -- so much so that the city has been nicknamed "Spokansterdam." It has been a disaster. Not just pot, but meth use has skyrocketed. There are parts of downtown that look like Zombieland. And about 40 pot shops where people with "anxiety disorder" can go in and load up on bud, brownies, cookies, and teas. Well, it is such a disaster that even our left-wing mayor has realized that the project has been a failure.

Based on this experience, I am far less inclined to support decriminalization than I was before.

1:49 AM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

How do the Whiskeypalians fit into this calculus?

A triumph of the Know-nothings of the Prairie?

9:20 AM  
Blogger Kevin J. Jones said...

Prohibition did indeed allow exceptions for sacramental wine.

The saloon was a major social and political center for Catholic immigrant men, while the beer garden was where families would go on Sunday (often their only day off). Murray Rothbard had a good essay on this: "The Progressive Era and the Family."

Taking away the saloon thus had significant political consequences.

I'm disturbed to hear about the increase of meth use in Spokane. I hope it is not correlated.

Colorado, too, is presently taking part in the "medical marijuana" fad. The average age for a permit has fallen to 23 years old or so.

All these sickly young people!

The mmj dispensaries are cropping up in various places, and I am very glad I do not live or work near any of them.

Legalization advocates often forget the major changes in law enforcement since the 1950s & 1960s. Police could once very easily drive out potential troublemakers. Now communities in poorer areas have no intermediate measures against troublesome drug users.

Arguably, the WoD arose from the inability to provide adequate police protection because of new judicial imperatives (and the new threat of race riots). Drug use was a convenient marker for other anti-social activity, and so cracking down on that lowered crime in a very blunt way.

I predict that legalization will again upset that equilibrium.

9:57 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I have to admit the rise of these medical marijuana establishments is one of the weirder developments I've seen on my various return trips to the US.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Pints in NYC said...

It's quite pathetic, I think, that one of the biggest campaign issues last cycle was medical mj. Not the economy or wars; but doping up.


11:25 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Pints, well said. One thing I learned from my years on the Left was to recognize the "diversionary tactics" employed by the powers-that-be.

2:20 PM  

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