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Through These Eyes #7: Civil Disobedience 1992

     So the raids on the bars near campus are continuing, I read in some recent Tribune. And that doesn't set too well with students. Particularly those who get nailed for a couple of hundred bucks and thrown out of the joint when it's somebody else's turn to buy. Usually after a particularly harsh weekend of raids, somebody will write and editorial screaming "It's not right! The cops should be chasing murderers and rapists and armed felons and not us!" And then there's always the opinions that the laws are unfair and hence should not be obeyed.

     Okay, wait a minute. Both of the arguments seem invalid to me, but as a disclaimer, I must add I've never had to use either one of them. I guess when given the choice of feeling guilty and chastised after telling my folks why I need a little advance on my allowance or becoming indignant and self-righteous, I'd choose the latter, too. But that's beside the point. Let me use this space to blast the arguments, not the arguers.

     Cops should only chase murderers and rapists, right? Well, okay, but since we're selecting which laws ought to be enforced, let's pick another one, too. Speed limit fifty-five? Why not go faster? It doesn't hurt anyone, unless you run into other difficulties, like a car in front of you that brakes suddenly. It could be argued that all those statutes besides murder and rape and robbery are just to add weight to a law student's backpack, not actually to provide guidelines to keep us safe.

     Regardless of their seriousness in relation with the great criminal activity elsewhere, they are laws. The cops aren't there to pick which laws to enforce, they just are there to enforce them all, and if you're in a bar with a fake ID at age twenty, you are a lawbreaker. Sorry, no sympathy from me.

     Is the twenty-one drinking age a fair law? Perhaps not. That's not my topic here. What is my topic is the argument that it is not, and as a means of protest, students are committing a bit of fraud to get a little drunk. It is all of our patriotic duty. Right?

     Excuse me. That line of reasoning might hold some weight if the same students who used it actually tried a couple of legal forms of protest and activism to get the law changed. Write your congressman. Start a petition. Write letters to the editor of every paper from here to Spokane. Do all of these and then try a little civil disobedience.

     Instead I see a lot of people using this tack to explain why they were doing it after they were caught. All of a sudden a Thursday night drinking binge with a couple of friends from your floor becomes a crusade to end the oppression of this nation's youth. Was protest the reason most of the underage drinkers were in the bars in the first place? I think not.

     Now before the boss gets his desk swamped with letters making nice straw man arguments, I am not against drinking--what kind of Milwaukee resident would I be if I were?-- nor am I against bars nor college students. To sum up what I believe nicely, if you can't pay the fine, don't do the wine. And if you wind up having to pay the fine, don't bellyache to me that it's not fair. You broke the law.

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