Prison of Brown Bottles
am not a prude, and believe that everyone has the right to
determine how to conduct their lives. I want people to be
well and free, to see that a blue sky and a bright sun are
always overhead. I am not wise enough to have the mold which
fits everyone to perfection.
But for the record, I hate beer. This is a personal vendetta,
born of personal insult, which I can no longer contain.
My best friend is an alcoholic. His personal weapon of choice
is beer, with an occasional Jack Daniels for variety. For
years, I have witnessed the power of this weapon, and tried
to pry it from his hand by every device imaginable. In the
end, I stand in front of a person who, professing love for
me, rejects my touch for that of dead glass.
Yes, this is personal. Each time I see one of these bottles,
I receive a blow to the head, an insult. The scent from one
of these cold decanters is the essence, the defining, offensive
scent of defeat.
I know that I am not unique, so in the way common to our
kind, I stand back, take in the big picture, and create the
universal from my particular.
I am looking at the big picture for Washington, DC in 2002.
Death is cheap in our nation. People complain about the cost
of cigarettes and beer, which are rising, but have yet to
reach the cost of a well wrapped cigar or a vintage with good
bouquet. The expensive vices are a sign of the better things
in life, and are displayed with pride. The cheap brews come
in a brown paper shroud, and are hidden even as they are consumed.
Death is also readily available. It is a glaring and terrible
thing to see a neighborhood with no grocery stores, but abounding
in liquor stores, with one on each block, and directly facing
its twin across the street. The paths connecting these quadrants
are littered with bottle shrouds, cigarette stubs, and lottery
tickets. People created in the image of God walk these paths
Those who retain some freedom walk. There are others who
have lost that emblem of freedom, who sit or stand where they
may. With loss of freedom comes loss of strength, and these
need some support to lean upon, whether a pole or each other.
Those who have lost all freedom are prone.
This is the city. In the suburbs, where I live, there is
more semblance of freshness and useful activity. To accommodate
this, the liquor stores have, in our enviable American ingenuity,
come up with drive-through liquor venues. A list of everything
a customer might desire is posted next to a bullet proof glass,
where a warden-clerk sits. In this perversion of the fast
food paradigm, you pay your money, take your liquor, and drive
The suburbs have other amenities. I regularly go to a gym.
There are people here of every age and physical condition,
save one - men above the age of forty. These are no where
to be found. They are also absent from the pool, from the
church, from the library, from view. I ask myself why, but
I know the answer: they are all at home, beginning the first
bottle, or proceeding to the next. I have sure evidence of
what I say. In our recycle boxes, every fourth house has piles
of bottles accumulated from the recent week.
This age of forty is the age of unreason. A person can wield
their chosen weapon for years, but at a point, there is a
breakdown, a point where the arguments for health, full functioning,
full vitality no longer register with the listener. They have
integrated their weapon to the point that it is part of life,
maybe 30 percent, or 60, or 100. Yes, 100. I know a man who
lapsed into a coma while clutching his weapon, and died dreaming
Well, you say, why this tirade in a forum for political opinions?
My president falls off a couch after choking on a pretzel.
There are related issues. The Democratic Party is working
to increase voter registration. From which ranks will they
recruit? From whence will the participants in our democracy
arise? It is well known that those in prisons do not vote.
May I suggest that those within their prison of brown bottles
also do not exercise the franchise.
The marking of territory by the liquor industry has been
noted, and fought. The billboards are removed, the ads to
children are condemned, and the public is alerted. But has
the fight been waged with kid gloves? Has the true reason
for the copious, ubiquitous flood of alcohol really been revealed?
Many of those who rule claim the Bible as their guide. I
quote from this guide to end my tirade.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine
unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery
The author is a writer by choice, and a human being by grace.