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LETTER: “Popping the top” on the real alcohol issues

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By The Staff

Organizers of the move to bring alcohol sales into Spencer County have attempted to frame this debate by ignoring the real issue.

B.J. Smith says this isn’t a moral issue, but rather an economic one. Others have said it’s not about alcohol, but about choice.

That’s a familiar tactic that’s been used often to mask a controversial topic. Proponents simply disguise it as something more defensible.

Pro-abortionists have skirted the ugly truth by saying their defense of killing babies is really just a defense of ‘choice.’ Pro-slavery apologists over a century ago echoed the same argument to attempt to justify their way of life, one that also ensured certain people economic opportunity.

Please understand that I’m not equating the people behind this alcohol movement with abortionists or slave-owners, rather, I’m suggesting that they simply borrowed similar strategy.

I personally know many of these people who have come out in favor of alcohol sales in the county and I count many of them among friends, people who have done much good for this community, and whose intent I hope is well-placed. But before this community is asked to make a quick decision, it’s important to examine the real issue at hand - and that issue is alcohol.

We teach our children that alcohol is a drug, that alcohol consumption can lead to a myriad of problems, including but not limited to abuse, drunk driving, crime, broken homes, divorce, violence, poor judgment, life-threatening illnesses and addiction. We teach our children these things in school, as part of the D.A.R.E. program and similar curriculum, and hopefully they get similar lessons at home.

But do those warnings of the dire consequences lose their credibility when the good people of a community suggest that the dangers we’ve told them about are of less importance than the opportunity to make a few bucks? What message do we send our children when we say in one breath “Beware” and in the next we utter “Show me the money.”?

Before the recent downturn in the housing market, Spencer County was the fastest growing county in the state of Kentucky, and one of the fastest growing counties in the whole United States. This growth was achieved without alcohol sales. In fact, people moving out to Spencer County did so by choice, the overwhelming majority of whom probably knew the dry status of our county.

So when proponents say that our economic future hinges on us popping the top on legal alcohol sales, can we ask them why our dry status wasn’t a hindrance in the past?

What was the selling point in Spencer County? Many of the people I’ve talked to who have moved out here from Louisville and surrounding areas said it was the small town atmosphere and quality of life that attracted them to this community. That’s something to be proud of, not something we should rush to jeopardize.

Look at a map of counties in which alcohol, whether by the drink or the case, can be purchased legally and you’ll notice that our county is a virtual island surrounded by wet counties. For many who have left the large city to escape crime, noise and unsavory aspects, Spencer County no doubt provided a refuge. Do we really want to become like everyone else? Sure we may, as proponents suggest, reap some of the same financial benefits they do, but will also inherit the same problems.

It’s surprising to me that the wet forces currently supporting this measure did not try to gradually introduce alcohol, such as allowing liquor by the drink in certain restaurants only, but rather they’ve recommended tapping the whole keg on the community at one time. This further suggests that money is the driving force behind this initiative, and when greed is the motivating factor behind any movement, reason and rational thought often get overlooked.

While there are moral aspects regarding alcohol, that doesn’t have to be the overriding factor in this debate. I don’t hear anyone proposing a total prohibition of alcohol, and personally, I’ll be the first to say that if a guy wants to have a beer in his home while watching the game, or a family wants to serve wine with their meals, that’s their right and I’ll defend that.

But changing our laws to make alcohol more readily and easily accessible in the county goes beyond merely tolerating a personal choice, it enters the realm of supporting and even promoting the consumption of alcohol. And that’s the issue, and the question really should be  framed this way: “Do you value what alcohol can bring to this community over the valid concerns of what alcohol can do to this community and its families?”

If Spencer County stays dry, I really doubt there will be a middle-aged person in 20 years who can say that his biggest regret in life was that he or she was unable to buy that six-pack in Elk Creek or Taylorsville. But you can drive down to a homeless shelter or rehab center in any community and find no shortage of people who will readily admit that their greatest regret in life was taking that first drink.

Spencer County, our aim isn’t to force people not to drink, but we should think long and hard about being a community of enablers who support and condone the use of a substance that we try so hard to steer our children away from.

John Shindlebower

Mt. Eden