Carrie Sandstrom is a student at the University of North Dakota. She’s the editor of the school newspaper, the Dakota Student, was Students Against Destructive Decision’s “student of the year for 2012-2013 and serves as one of two UND student members on the Grand Forks Community and Campus Committee on High-Risk Alcohol Use, something she touted recently in an op/ed for the Grand Forks Herald.
And this weekend she was arrested, accused of obstructing a police officer, refusing to halt for police and being a minor consuming alcohol.
According to reports, when police officers approached her she appeared to be drunk. She swore at officers and refused to cooperate.
Sandstrom, by all accounts, is a fine student with an impressive resume built up already at nineteen. Now this arrest has happened, and will be on her record forever. That’s devastating.
I think Sandstrom is the victim of two things.
First, and foremost, her own decisions and actions for which she will have to face the consequences.
Second, America’s utter hypocrisy when it comes to alcohol.
Americans generally, and North Dakotan’s especially, are a people who like to drink. Our media is littered with alcohol advertising. The Super Bowl, like many other holidays both formal and informal, is an excuse to tip a few back with friends and family (hey, here’s a drinking game for use with tomorrow’s State of the Union address!). And, truth be told, most Americans use alcohol responsibly.
Yet when it comes to the laws surrounding alcohol, we take a puritanical bent. Despite the fact that most Americans start drinking well before the legal age, and despite the fact that most of us accept that as a reality, consuming alcohol under the age of 21 is a crime. You can be arrested for having even one beer or one glass of wine, and if you’re over the age of 18, that arrest becomes a part of your permanent record.
Moreso than ever in this digital age when things like criminal records are readily available on the internet.
You have to ask, is that really a healthy situation? Is that what we want for our young people? To raise them in a society where drinking is seen as largely harmless, only to treat them as criminals if they drink before the age of 21 even if they’re considered adults in every other way?
Much of our nation’s drinking problems, particularly on campus where there there really are problems, stem from our ridiculous drinking laws that postpone lawful introduction to alcohol until well into adulthood.
Sandstrom has devoted much of her young career to the issue of underage drinking, but even as she did so she was drinking underage herself (or seems to have done so on at least one occasion, anyway). Maybe that’s an object lesson for the futility of the age 21 drinking laws, and drinking policies based on prohibition in general.
When America tried, as a national experiment, prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol what we got wasn’t an alcohol-free society but one in which Americans developed a less healthy relationship with alcohol. With that lesson as our guide, is it any surprise that the age 21 drinking prohibition has resulted in similarly unhealthy relationships with alcohol for our younger generations?