Book Trailer The Noble Train

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Cautionary Tale of Ken Burns Prohibition

You cant' help but finish watching all three nights of Ken Burn's Prohibition because it is so damn interesting in terms of what is going on today. You have this radical element called the Drys in congress who are supported by a radical element in rural Protestant America that basically wants to  take away the right to drink from the immigrants in the cities. Then it spreads out into a moral crusade for God and country and an amendment is passed that doesn't represent the country but goes through nonetheless and the country goes dry for thirteen years.

And because of the Drys America descends into lawlessness. Capone and the boys fire it up and cities like Chicago become like the Wild West. Speakeasys and stills pop up all over the country and people go blind from bad alcohol and are shot by government enforcers of the Volstead Act that is radical all in itself with prison terms for even knowing somebody is selling booze and not turning them in. Personal freedom takes a severe hit and the country is consumed with this war on drinking while steaming toward the Great Depression.

You certainly see the parallels with zealots in government today who say they know what is best for our country now. Like the Drys these fiscal warriors do not bend. Not an inch. The Drys would never accept even a modification to Prohibition that would allow people to drink beer and wine. It was all or none. Sound familiar. We cannot extend our debt ceilings or get just about anything through congress because of an all or none faction. The same moral crusaders invoke God and Country and speak of our children as the victims. The Drys cried out with the same "its for the children."

And of course it ended. The very intransigence of the Drys undid them. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 and the Drys vanished from the political landscape. Everyone was in agreement, Prohibition was a disaster for the country. It left us with organized crime, maimed people, dead people, and a collective hangover to the folly of enforced moralizing by  government decree.

It is our cautionary tale.

Rocket Man ...a Catcher in the Rye for the Forty Somethings

Books by William Hazelgrove