THE CORNER WHERE I GREW UP – GARRY ARMSTRONG

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: CORNER

At my old family home on Long Island in New York, I found myself rediscovering the place I grew up … literally, the corner where the house stands.

This is my childhood corner of the world. This is my street, intersection, corner. The place I grew up. The house is closing and soon, it will be a memory. It has been more than 40 years since I lived here, but nostalgia lingers.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

WE GOT RID OF ALCOHOL IN 1920 – NO ONE HAS HAD A DRINK SINCE

Our so-called president has decided the answer to the opioid epidemic is to up the ante. Send out more cops. Arrest everyone. Imprison millions! We’ve done it before and it worked perfectly, so let’s do it again!


Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

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Prohibition headline

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition. Those who had never imbibed before were so titillated by the idea, they had their first booze illegally. Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

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Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created the underworld of crime.

There are no fewer gay people because we make their lives difficult, any more than segregation made the world safer for stupid white people. Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers, too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want? How is that better or more moral? And while you are at it, get rid of Planned Parenthood. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes considerable pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before.

Throughout history, “morality” laws have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly. You’d think we’d notice this, but remarkably, we don’t.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything, maybe it’s because no one recognized that history is repeating itself. Many people don’t know any history, so how could they?

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts.

Organized crime went from being a minor problem to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since.

The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, we are all meaningless.

SYNCHRONIZATION – WHEN THE WORLD IS TRAGIC, WRITING HELPS

SYNCHRONIZE

I’ve always been a writer. As soon as I could put a pencil on paper, I wrote. Stories, bad poetry, longer stories that never became books. Letters. Newspaper articles, funny stuff. Recipes. Interviews. Manuals for software and hardware.

A huge piece of my career was tied up in high-tech documentation and writing. I was not good at science or math, so it was a surprise to master that form of writing. I got people to understand extremely complicated things they would never have understood without help. I made complicated things easy.

In retirement, I still try to make complicated things easier. I spend hours explaining how and why  the electoral college is supposed to work. Why, at least when it was created, it made sense.

Does it still makes sense? I don’t know. I thought I knew, but I’m finding the world has been changing at a dizzying pace, so I’m not sure what I know. Knowing I don’t know everything is a big point in my favor. If I don’t know, I either do the research to find out, or flat-out tell you “I don’t know.”

I spend time trying to convince people that “term limits” are the last thing we need. When the people you elect are bad at their jobs, shortening the time they serve doesn’t fix the problem. We are not suffering from too many overly experienced politicians in Congress. We are suffering from too many unqualified, no-nothing pols who don’t care about anything except their careers.

We need better candidates. We need political parties who care about us and want to make the world a better place.

I put considerable effort into explaining how this government is different than parliamentary ones. Reminding people that even between the various versions of parliaments around the world, no two are the same.

We will never be them. We are not going to change the nature of this republic. We will fix a few things here and there, but the fundamental design of this republic isn’t going to change.

All reputedly democratic regimes have strengths and weaknesses. We are currently suffering from bad government, but that isn’t because our structure is bad. It’s because we voted for stupid, inept people who are narrow-minded and lacking compassion. Who are wedded to reactionary ideas and miss the point of what’s going on in the world. Then, there’s our crazy, paranoid, morally insane, narcissistic president who should never have been elected to anything … something which is becoming more obvious every day.

We need to recognize that this country is a constitutional republic. It is not a democracy, although it is democratically based. I doubt we’ll ever eliminate the electoral college, though I hope we will at least reform it.

These are the posts I write because they are important to me, though I doubt anyone is paying attention. It’s great to get lots of hits, but sometimes, I have to write it anyway.


I write because it’s what I do. I do it better than I do anything else in my repertoire. 

I don’t spend every blog making political, social, or cultural points. No one wants to get banged over the head all the time. If you want more politics, plenty of places write nothing else. I’m not a newspaper. I’d just like to shed a bit of light on processes that are murky and need clarity.

Does what I do matter? I think so. I hope so. Maybe I can get people to look at their world differently. If I succeed, I’m good with myself.

I also take nice pictures.