America’s Last Overt Prejudice

America these days likes to think of itself as a nation where prejudice and hate are no longer acceptable in polite society. Yes, we say, overt racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry still exist among outliers, but it’s no longer something your average American tolerates. No longer can someone casually spout racist, homophobic, sexist and/or religious slurs without a second thought. Women can have careers. Gays aren’t ostracized. African Americans don’t have to drink from separate fountains. That crap is all in the past, right?

Totally. Today’s problems are about subtler forms of discrimination. We’re beyond overt bigotry, right?

I hate to burst your bubble, but no, we’re not. There still exists one perfectly acceptable prejudice that everyone from employers to news broadcasters to doctors practices. I experienced this prejudice last week at a clothing store. I experienced it last month when the man seated next to me on the plane moved a to different row. Just last week my movie theater’s manager reminded me of it as I tried to take my seat at a film. I’ve experienced this prejudice at countless job interviews where I just wasn’t “what they were looking for.” I feel it under the weight of almost every waiter’s judging eye. I’ve endured it through countless sanctimonious lectures from my doctor, my family and my so-called friends. What is this prejudice, you ask? What form of hate could still be so pervasive in a nation that just elected its first African American President? I’m talking, of course, about heavy drinking people.

So I drink more than most. So what? I didn’t realize teetotaling was a requirement for trying on pants or flying on an airplane. I didn’t see the sign out front of the theater or the restaurant that said “Sobers Only.” And you know what Dr. Know-It-All? I’m sorry to ask, but what do my drinking habits have to do with this checkup? I’m here for medical advice, not a lecture. Here’s a tip: people can be happy and healthy at any BAC. In fact, there is no legitimate scientific evidence linking heavy drinking to health problems. None. What was that? You were taught it damages the liver? Well guess what? Thousands of sobers end up dying of liver failure every year, too. How do you explain that? Did they hang out with too many drunkies? What do you tell their families? That maybe you don’t know everything and perhaps you’ve just been brainwashed by our alcohol-obsessed media?

What the medical establishment doesn’t want you to know and what doctors routinely ignore are the multitude health benefits alcohol provides, among them stress reduction, lower blood pressure and heart health. On top of that, many forms of alcohol are chock full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. But do we ever hear about these sorts of things from healthcare professionals or all the other drunk-shamers out there? Of course not.

Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Mothers Against Drunk Driving are held up by our society as “noble” institutions fighting the good fight against some evil scourge. But let’s call them out for what they really are: hate groups spreading a pernicious lie that there is something somehow wrong with being a drunk. AA purveys a brain washing technique called the “12 Steps” in which convinces otherwise healthy, happy drunks that alcoholism is a disease caused by “defects of character,” and that only by divine intervention can the moral black hole that is a drunk find solace from this horrible affliction. Meanwhile, the rabble-rousing busybodies over at MADD continue to spread propaganda about drunks as dangerous behind wheel, framing all car accidents in which the driver was drunk as automatically being the fault of alcohol and the drinker. They were probably inhaling air right before the crash, too. Are you going to start crusading against breathing?

I dream of living in a world where people will not be judged by the color of their license plate, but by the content of their character. It’s as if people forget the humanity in my heart the moment they see the glaze in my eyes or smell the whiskey on my breath. Their narrow-mindedness prevents them from seeing through the drunken stupor to the person beneath—a person with real thoughts and feelings who is only partially insulated from the stab of their insults. Do I not work and love and laugh as much as the next? Is 99.78% of my blood not red?  Where do they get off telling me I need help?

But really, I pity the drunk-shamers. To live with that kind of hate in their heart must be a terrible burden. Hate is a prison. All of the world’s greatest philosophers preached this. So many people have come to see that they’re wrong about race, about gender, about sexual orientation, and freed themselves from their prejudice. Are people incapable of seeing that they might be wrong about alcohol “abuse,” too? Does everyone not deserve equality?

Basic respect and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not BAC-dependent. I implore you. Look into your heart of hearts and ask yourself: are drunks not human beings? Do they not deserve dignity and respect? I’m talking about equality, people. Real equality. Is that not the most basic principle at the core of this great land called America?