Emblems of the Bush Age: Adrift in a Sea of Booze

Politicians here still parrot Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign against teen drug use. Barrack Obama’s in trouble for supposedly having told teens as part of his counseling that he too used bad drugs including heroin. But the needle and the increasingly potent joint don’t hold a candle to simple booze in which the current cohort, stretching from mid-teen high schoolers through to college age kids, is marinating itself into weekly oblivion. Though there are those who deprecate claims that youth is drinking more than earlier cohorts, it seems a new lost generation is in the making, emblem of the Bush Age.

One big concern touted in the press endlessly used to be date-rape, with the girl-victim laid out by drugs. Now it’s binge-drinking. High schoolers, and in particular high school girls, drink hard liquor in large quantities as fast as they can and pass out. Sometimes they get gang-raped and wake up pregnant.

This is the culture. Even meth addiction looks better. Much of it started with the Girls Gone Wild home videos, which were largely filmed during Spring Break. Now it’s spring break all year round. Google tries to strip these off Youtube and such as soon as they go up. But there are undergound sites that may be searchable.

For fun at frat or sorority Parties, the pledges–that is, those who have been accepted for membership — are made to drink until they throw up and pass out. Then they are stripped by the slightly less drunken contingent and have swastikas and racist epithets written on their bodies in permanent magic marker, are posed in indecent positions and the whole affair is filmed and posted on Facebook/My Space websites.

If parents really want to know what they’re kids are up to they should read the Facebook entries–but it’s probably better not to know. A friend of mine with a frat boy son returned shaken from one weekend visit to the frat house having witnessed a lad who vomited on the sleeping fathers during “dads’ weekend”. This was after he had drained a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, following a day of nonstop drinking. “I don’t know how he survived,” my friend concluded in some perplexity.

A recent survey done in Montana, admittedly a heavy drinking state across all age groups, had 38 percent of high schoolers admitting binge drinking within the past 30 days, above the national average of 28 percent. Binge drinking is defined in these stats as having five or more drinks in one session. Over a third of these young boozers said they’d been in a car whose driver was also busy getting loaded. You trip over reports of the resultant auto disasters all the time, in any local paper.

Teen and college drinkers include here returning vets from Iraq, mostly in their mid-20s. For example Portland State University in Oregon, had 800 vets enrolling this fall, and many other colleges across the country experienced a similarly huge inrush. These include a predictable complement of people with severe problems of post traumatic stress syndrome likely to produce sociopathic behavior.

Parents worried that some drunk will drive their own drunken child into a wall or another car, or that that their own drunken child will be behind the wheel, now encourage the parties to take place in their own homes. This carries its own risks, in the form of “social hosting” laws in many states, where the householder–even if away on holiday or on business–can get nailed for allowing the party. This includes liability for damages if any death or injury stems from the revelry, either on site or in some carload of party-goers on their way home.

If Americans look for leadership amidst this crisis, they probably won’t want to dwell too long on George Bush, a frat boy with a major drinking problem until–supposedly–he laid off after Laura had been on the receiving end of one too many unpleasant homecomings. George claims God saved him, but there are no signs of the mass religious revival which would now be necessary.



Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.