Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Teachable Moment

Too young to drink legally, but old enough to be sued?  Welcome to the world of the American teenager.

In Massachusetts in October 2008, a 17 year old honor student, Taylor Meyer, went out drinking with several friends after a football game, and unfortunately did not survive.  They went to some house parties and eventually the woods by a swamp, Taylor wandered off, and her body was found in the frigid swamp a few days later.  The details of what actually happened in the woods are not yet known, and it is thus a bit premature to speculate on the roles of her friends that night.  Though it is highly unlikely anyone forcibly poured the booze down her throat, and the autopsy showed that the death was consistent with drowning rather than foul play.

Now, in 2010, Taylor's mother is suing seven of the girl's friends, five of which are under 18 and six of which are under 21, for wrongful death.  She says it is about "accountability" rather than money, and the amount she is suing for was not disclosed.  Nevermind the fact that those teens are, due to their age, deemed too irresponsible and immature to drink legally.  If that's the case, how can they be mature enough to be held legally liable for a friend's self-inflicted death?  Look, you can't have it both ways--either they're adults or they're not.  The hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when alcohol is forced underground. Many preventable deaths occur as a result of the 21 drinking age, just like during Prohibition.  So why is no one in the MSM saying this?  If anyone should be sued, it should be the government, as well as fanatical groups like MADD, for helping to create a more dangerous environment for young people.  Those folks have WAY more blood on their hands than they care to acknowledge.

Our litigious culture feels the need to sue for just about everything, and this is just one of many examples. Personal responsibility has sadly become a forgotten virtue in our society, and parents increasingly abdicate their responsibility for their children as well.  They often expect the state to raise them, and when things go wrong it is always someone else's fault.  Alas, this has become the new "normal" for America.

The mother in this case, however, believed she was doing the right thing.  From what she said, she (like many American parents of teenagers) appears to have raised her daughter on a "zero tolerance" model with respect to alcohol, perhaps even more so than average.  And she is left wondering what more she could have done, such as check her daughter's Facebook.  The problem with the "zero tolerance" approach, however, is that there is little to no room for harm reduction.   Many teens, like Taylor, are going to drink either way.  And the 21 drinking age often creates a false sense of security for parents, as well as increased dangers for their teenage children.  Better alcohol education, and a more relaxed view of alcohol, could oddly enough have prevented this tragedy.  A feast or famine mentality, fear of getting busted, forbidden fruit attraction, and a schizoid drinking culture all combined, in this case, to spell disaster.

We can learn a lot from tragedies like these, and how to prevent them from happening in the future.

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