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Defending the minority

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I wish to express my disappointment at the harsh attacks made upon my classmate Mr. Ryan Iafigliola regarding his views on drinking. I, too, am a non-drinker and agree with him that it can, at times, be difficult to live in such a way.

We are treated, not by all, but at least by some, as if we have a “social defect,” some diseased area of our brain that prevents us from “living it up” and “having the full college experience.” There are drinkers I know who would love to get me drunk, even though they know how I feel about it.

The defenses of drinking offered by Miss Caitlyn Smith in her letter are almost entirely flawed. First, the relationship between the Bible and wine is not an explicit endorsement of drinking by any and all. Jesus’ purpose in performing the miracle at Cana was not simply so his friends, who were probably all responsible adults, could get drunk. It was to show, in part, who He was.

Additionally, there are stories in the Bible, such as when Lot is made drunk by his daughters who then sleep with him (Genesis 19: 30-38), where drunkenness and alcohol in general contribute to immoral behavior. As for wine in Mass, may I note that when consecrated, it is no longer wine, but the Blood of Christ Himself. It is the transformation of the wine that makes it sacred. I would hope that all Catholics, whether at this institution or any other, would remember that fact.

Second, when referring to Plato and the philosophy of Socrates, I would note that just because the ancient Greeks acted in a certain manner does not mean that we are right to act in the same way. Slavery was an accepted practice in ancient Greece. Should we therefore bring back slavery, simply because they practiced it? Additionally, I doubt that Ms. Smith would advocate that President Bush and Congress get drunk while running our government in order to improve decision making.

Although Mr. Iafigliola may have been generalizing to some degree, his assessment is certainly true in some cases. I would not be surprised to find that someone I know who drinks does so because of personal, emotional or psychological problems. While all drinkers may not be in this situation, there are most certainly some who are.

Furthermore, no person whether a heavy drinker, mild drinker or non-drinker, will deny that “getting fat, puking, poor decision making and increased chance of physical or sexual assault,” are potential consequences of drinking.

Notre Dame may not explicitly endorse drinking, but at the same time it does not enforce most of its policies on alcohol. Read pages 88-90 of du Lac, think about what happens almost every weekend on this campus, and you will be unable to deny this fact. The banning of hard alcohol does nothing but force students who wish to get smashed to drink larger quantities of beer instead of smaller quantities of hard alcohol. Though the administration does not encourage it, there is a tacit acceptance of the pervasive drinking culture on this campus.

Mr. Matthew Wormington’s assertion that the numbers given by Mr. Iafigliola are invalid is easily proven false. Do the math. There are around 8,000 undergraduates here at Notre Dame. Twelve percent of 8,000 students is 960. This means that roughly 7,000 people on this campus do drink. If there are around 2,000 people per class, this easily covers three out of the four classes, as well as half of another. The cited facts and figures demonstrate that even if only underage classes are considered, non-drinkers are still a minority, and a shrinking one at that. A word of advice to Mr. Wormington: Next time you explicitly state that you are breaking Indiana state law, remember the fifth Amendment.

When underage people choose to drink, they are essentially saying that the law only applies to them when they feel it should. I have heard it said, “Well, I’m just as mature as a 21-year-old, probably even more so, so I should be able to drink.” Such an attitude sets a dangerous precedent. By this rationale, if I feel that laws against murder are below me, then it shouldn’t matter if I violate them. After all, it’s just a “personal choice.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s usually not the sober people who are involved in illegal or immoral activities on this campus. If my personal choice results in me being a better human being, then perhaps I have the right to claim some moral high ground. I, for one, choose not to drink and encourage others not to because I believe it is the wiser course of action. I would be shirking my duty as a loving Christian if I did not try and help my fellow human beings live the best life possible. If I am being judgmental in expressing that opinion, so be it.

Cole R. MilliardfreshmanO’Neill HallFeb. 25