According to A Vigil for Lost Promise's sponsors page, Pease "is a self-appointed activist, mentoring proponent and prevention advocate focused on helping parents get a grip on the cloak of denial, and on helping teens break free from the bondage of underage drinking and substance abuse. He is the founder of the Amistad 53 Mentoring Program - currently being pilot tested in Stamford, Connecticut in partnership with Liberation Programs of Connecticut - and the Get a G.R.I.P. Foundation, working to inspire 'Greater Responsibility In Parenthood' by conducting workshops across the State." Sadly, he "lost his oldest son Dave to a heroin overdose at age 23 in 1997, and his middle son Casey in 2001, on his 24th birthday, to a car accident where alcohol played a role." You can read his testimony about his sons in his article "My Son Brian" published on the web site of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Anyway, I'm of course not happy that Pease lost his sons to what clearly amounted to a vicious substance abuse problem. However, I don't really think Pease can blame society for what happened to his children. Liberalization and culture really weren't the direct problems in his case. The children had a problem. He confesses that he maybe didn't handle it as well as he should have, which is actually pretty courageous, but at the end of the day one of his sons was playing with heroine, not exactly equivalent to smoking a joint or drinking a beer, and the other got plastered and attempted to drive home.
But back to the New York Times article. Pease laments, "If there ever was a time to focus on the problem of underage drinking here in Connecticut, it's now, when teenagers are busy celebrating their final days of high school and the beginning of independence, in many cases by popping a cork or opening a bottle." Well, gee. It's kind of a long-accepted custom in western society to pop a cork of champaign to celebrate the passage into adulthood, which Pease carefully refers to as "independence" (because 18-year-olds who graduate from high school still aren't adults?). Pease's op-ed is full of the usually vague statistics about the "problem" of alcohol consumption:
- "Our teenagers are reporting a consumption of alcohol during the last 30 days that is 21 percent above the national average, yet a number of Connecticut parents and legislators resist putting more teeth into our local ordinances."
- "For too long, the country has focused on illicit drug abuse without giving alcohol abuse the attention it warrants. And yet according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the 22.5 million Americans over the age of 12 who are substance-dependent, 15.2 million, or 67.6 percent, abuse alcohol, while only 3.9 million, or 17 percent, are primarily drug abusers."
- "When one considers that more than 95 percent of those 15.2 million alcohol abusers started drinking before they were 21 years old, it would seem logical that underage drinking would not only be our main focus, but that it would also get the bulk of our prevention spending."
- "While restricting access is important, studies have shown that programs that reduce drug and alcohol abuse focus on educating parents and teaching children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol."
- "Recent studies of adolescents' brain scans show that the consumption of alcohol by young adults can cause long-lasting damage, particularly in areas related to learning, memory and critical thinking."
The reason why alarmist screeds like this come about is because the authors of such claims are knee-jerk moralists. They act this way about alcohol and drugs, but not activities that don't carry a moral social stigma. For instance, according to NHTSA statistics in 2005, 43,200 died in car accidents. "Alcohol-related" deaths numbered 16,972. (It's important to remember that "alcohol-related" is also a very vague, misleading term. A sober driver hitting a drunk pedestrian is "alcohol-related.)
Cars are apparently killing more people thank drivers who drink. Heck, Mr. Pease's son died in an automobile-related accident. Why don't we make it more difficult to drive? Better yet, let's shoot for Automobile Prohibition!