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Another reason to drink

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We know Barack Obama likes to drink beer and wine because it’s been widely reported. Now we know that Bill Clinton likewise enjoys a glass of wine.

On the other hand, we also know that George W. Bush didn’t drink, nor does Mitt Romney. So what does this say about Democrats and Republicans?

A lot, I think. Oh, I know that some Dems don’t inbibe and some Repubs do, but in general, it seems to me that Democrats like to drink for the same reasons the rest of us do: it relaxes them, makes them more uninhibited and contributes to an atmosphere of fun and festivity with friends. Republicans always seem more uptight to me, but that’s not the entire reason why they don’t drink. I think it’s because a neoprohibitionist streak runs through their party, and also the Christian fundamentalism that is so rampant in the GOP frowns on the consumption of alcohol.

Why this is so has long been a mystery to me. The people who wrote the Bible—Old and New Testaments—drank a lot of wine. Noah grew a grapevine when he emerged from the Ark. Jesus drank wine; in fact, he manufactured it from water, making him a winemaker. Wine was at the center of Semitic life, as it was of Greek and Roman culture. So why followers of the Bible would eschew wine is, quite frankly, weird.

The spiritual ancestors of our current anti-alcohol crowd were the Pilgrims, a tight-assed group of white guys if ever there was one. They didn’t permit dancing either, and I suspect if they were still around they wouldn’t go to the movies. They believed pleasure in this life was wicked and had to be rejected, so that they could experience pleasure in the next, Heavenly life. What current group of people on Earth believes the same? Fundamentalist Muslims, of course, who also don’t drink alcohol, and who make their women stay veiled.

Life for me has always been about pleasure. I’m no Sybarite; I don’t indulge in luxury for its own sake, and I dare say I have spiritual beliefs that are quite religious, in their own way. But I do believe the Creator gave us the capacity to delight in our senses, and that to deliberately shun that delight is, in a way, to turn against the Creator.

People who can’t relax with a glass of beer, wine or liquor among friends and laugh and get loose have a serious problem, and they shouldn’t be telling the rest of us what’s right and wrong. (I exempt, naturally, those who have addiction problems, of whom I have several I love in my own family.) It’s always been the anti-life crowd that’s tried to preach to the mass of humankind that’s fundamentally kind, generous and decent and just wants to chill after a long day of work. This anti-life crowd often ends up in positions of power—priest, legislator, judge—because something in them drives them to want to tell everybody else how to live. Sometimes, and in some eras, they take over entire countries, always leading them to disaster. One of the things I love about America and our culture is that people enjoy drinking. I love going into a bar with a TV showing sports and hearing folks laugh and cheer as their team scores. (As I did last Saturday in Santa Monica.) The booze is flowing freely, and everybody’s happy to be there no matter how lousy their day was, including me. If I was younger (and better-looking) I might even be a mixologist; they seem to be happy people with great jobs. If I were President of the United States, I’d make as one of my pet causes they promotion of wine drinking in America, on the basis that “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap.” Thomas Jefferson said that.

  1. Roger Scruton’s book “I Drink Therefore I Am” is a deep and exhaustive look at the the human cultural and philosophical developments which have shaped our relationship to alcohol. It includes some fascinating information and insights regarding abstinent Christian practices, the historical significance of wine in the middle east, and how dogma is shaped to move agendas.
    It is a dense read, well suited for long winter evenings, and fortified wine.

  2. Steve – I think I love you.

  3. Don’t trust the politicians that doesn’t drink?

  4. Patrick Frank says:

    I share a lot of those same opinions, Steve, but I have to say that I think you’re wrong about the Pilgrims who came to Plymouth: they brought plenty of beer with them, and they saw its enjoyment as a part of life. Source: Royce, James E. Alcohol Problems: A Comprehensive Survey. New York: Free Press, 1981, 38.

  5. We often have people over for dinner–it is kind of what we do. There is no quicker end to the ‘relationship’ than discovering that the other couple does not drink by choice. Wine is such an integral part of the meal for us. It also signals that the others are usually uptight judgmental killjoys and we have no time for them. Life is hard enough….

  6. Steve, one aspect of your daily blog I’ve appreciated, until today, is your ability to write around your extreme politcal and social positions. Keeping that stuff on your social media page and out of your wine blog allows some of us with different views of the world to enjoy your wine writings. Until today…

  7. Dear Ron Leaverton, I’m not sure what’s “extreme” about saying that most Democrats, including me, like to drink! At any rate, I’m glad you like my blog.

  8. Looking to a bronze age work of fiction for direction on making ethical and behavioral decisions in one’s life is how we got into this mess in the first place.
    We don’t need fairytales and imaginary friends in the sky to help us make these sorts of decisions

  9. I’m a ‘live and let live’ kind of girl, which includes drinking, etc… But I have also seen plenty of lives (families) ruined from alcoholism which of course is different from social drinking, but it’s telling nonetheless. Maybe that’s why the so called tight asses make alcohol their business. They only see the underbelly of the drinking culture.

  10. Good post, though from my understanding of the Puritans, they drank a lot more than nearly all of us 21st C.E. imbibers. Like barrels of beer more.

  11. Lara, while I agree that alcohol has a certain ‘underbelly’, not all that abstain have personal tragedies to recount. While I respect their decisions, they should also respect mine….

  12. My father always told me not to trust men that don’t drink….Thanks Dad…

  13. Curious as to what political party the moonshiners of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky associate themselves with? I’m guessing Republican… but as a Democrat, I’d say imbibe falls across party lines. Maybe the federal fiscal cliff would be resolved with an off-site meeting on the Bourbon Trail of Kentucky?

  14. george kaplan says:

    Possibly the single craziest take ever blogged. Just look at pictures of Tip O’Neill and Newt Gingrich, Or for that matter Buckley and Vidal, side-by-side. For a totally unsupported counter-statement: no Republican would ever correlate adult beverage consumption with political opinion, only crazy Bay-Area liberals. Present company excluded, of course.

  15. Aw shucks, I am a repub and love a glass of wine. Romney did not drink because he’s mormon, and Dubyah does not drink because he imbibed too much when young. In my circle, it seems wine is enjoyed more by repubs, and my democrat friend enjoy craft beer more. So…

  16. Naah, they all drink.

    There are enough politicians already who try (and succeed) to divide the people of this country as red/blue, south/north, religious/atheist, conservative/liberal, rich/middle, stupid/smart or what not. No need to create a new non-drinkers “anti-life” sub-species opposed to the “fun and festivity” loving humans. I think wine is a beverage that can unite people… at least good people.

  17. I have a somewhat different experience (My Republican leaning friends tend to drink, my Democrat leaning friends tend not to), but I do find those of our friends who drink tend to be more successful in their chosen fields. Totally unscientific, I know, but when I hear an acquaintenance who has had their house foreclosed and lost 3 jobs rail against alcohol consumption while our friends that both hold top level executive positions at large corporations put down a bottle or two a night, I have to laugh. As I tell our acquaintence (a fervant religious type) repeatedly, “Hey – Jesus didn’t turn the water at the wedding into more water, did he?”

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