Happy February 20th!

Happy February 20th!  75 years ago today, Congress approved the 21st Amendment, kicking off the ratification process and bringing national prohibition to the point of no return.  Congress’ approval built upon the momentum generated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Herbert Hoover — a victory considered by many to be a mandate for repeal. After February 20, repeal steamrolled through the states at a pace faster than anyone could have envisioned.

In many ways, Legal Age 21 can be considered a latter-day prohibition — denying legal alcohol purchase and consumption to a specific group of adults who are allowed all other rights of citizenship. Indeed, historical parallels abound. Today, the excessive, reckless use of alcohol has become the norm as law forces drinking underground and out of public settings. The criminalization of ordinary behavior continues to breed disrespect for law. The unenforcability of the law, compounded with increasingly commonplace consumption, have engendered creative lawbreaking.  Off-campus parties and beer pong constitute the modern subculture equivalent of speakeasies and homemade spirits, and clearly illustrate the failure of a law — albeit one with good intentions — to bring about desired cultural change.

 Just as Americans on February 20, 1933 had repeal within reach, so can we, in 2008, affect change. Start the debate in your community. Talk to your local officials. In the words of a prominent prohibition-era poster, “Their security demands you vote REPEAL.”


(Kyvig 2000)

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