Monday, December 27, 2010

Fighting the power - one beer at a time

A recent study from the University of California indicates that teen drinking may cause "irreversible" damage to the brain, affecting both memory and spatial skills.

Well, no shit.

Anyone that really knows me, knows that I enjoy two things in life: cats and alcohol. (Please note that I never mix the two.) The latter discovery happened just before I entered college and has continued into my college life, which should come as no surprise.

While I appreciate the warning and information, I can't help but wonder what purpose it really serves other than to instill fear and anxiety? The fact remains, that teenagers and college students have been binge drinking for ages. In fact, it's a staple of our culture and the plotline of an endless amount of terrible teen movies. Do you think Bill Gates and Oprah never once drank when they were teens? Surely no president has ever been known to drink? (Okay, bad example.)

I understand that drinking causes health problems, and can lead to an unhealthy addiction that ruins lives. I've seen three seasons of Rock of Love and two of Celebrity Rehab - I get it. What I don't appreciate, however, is the use of this information to scare people into not living their lives. Alcohol serves as a wonderful social tool and, when used in moderation, a great way to "take the edge off." The bar world thrives on this business model, after all. Sometimes being a responsible and intelligent teenager (or person in general) doesn't mean to not use alcohol at all, it may mean simply knowing when usage is appropriate, and when it's not.

So if we're going to demonize alcohol, how about we demonize everything else that's bad in the world too? How about focusing on how candy bars clog arteries and cause diabetes? Or how caffeine can dangerously affect stress levels?

We're moving out of a time of year known for unhealthy binge eating and sugar-consumption, but do we advertise the negative health effects of that? No, instead we capitalize on weight gain and heart disease with Total Gym infomercials the week after New Year's. Why promote a healthy lifestyle, when you can promote capitalism, right?

And then there's tobacco, that equally bad (if not worse) product that those in their teens can actually legally use. I hate pulling out the "if you can shoot a gun, you can drink a beer" line, but it's too true to pass up on mentioning. Unhealthy lifestyles are a fact of life; stop with the whining.

I'm not an advocate of any of these items or substances mentioned above, but I can't help but feel that these sort of studies are merely another way to keep the public in line. So thanks, University of California. I appreciate the nice sentiment and the information, but I'll keep my health concerns to just that - myself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DADT repealed - for real this time

"You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

These wise words - uttered 40 years ago by unlikely gay rights supporter Barry Goldwater - hold true more now than ever before.

President Obama today signed into law the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," or in layman's terms, that archaic law that said banana-lovers and fish-lickers can't join the exclusive ranks of the military.

Color me a cynic, but I don't see how this is the major victory the mainstream media is portraying it as being. Sen. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was quoted as saying that this is the "single biggest thing" to be achieved in the history of gay rights. Really, Sen. Frank? Your own state's approval of gay marriage wasn't as big as the repeal of DADT? I beg to differ on that one.

I'm not going to sit here and be entirely pessimistic - I'm a gay rights supporter, of course I'm excited about this news. But the fact of the matter is, I should have read these headlines years ago. There's no reason why the United States should (again) be behind its companion megapower nations on this issue. It's embarrassing enough that we're 36th in the world on healthcare, do we really need to be behind on an issue like this as well?

I can't help but think that the overwhelming passage of this bill in the Senate has more to do with Republicans wanting to play the "gay-friendly" card in the future, and less to do with them actually supporting it. I don't doubt that the party is beginning to wake up to the fact that the majority of the nation does not want to elect a party of homophobes. And, on the flipside, I fear that this is merely President Obama's excuse to put gay rights on the backburner for the next two years while he plays "nice" with Republicans to gain political traction for 2012.

But alas, it's a dog eat dog world out there, and at least now we know we've got a few gays barking in the battle. Score one point for the Democrats, I suppose.