The start of 2013 brings a blank canvas. For Estill Countians, it also brings a blank ballot on which we are tasked with choosing whether we would like to allow legalized alcohol sales in our community.
For the last month, the CV&T opinion page has featured letters to the editor concerning different opinions about whether it’s in the county’s best interest to remain dry or to go wet. I’m sure many of my readers have been curious as to why I haven’t made a public stand on the issue.
Frankly, up until recently, I was conflicted. Both sides of the argument over the issue make good points. As a Christian, a free-thinker, an advocate for change, a young adult, a new Estill Countian and a journalist, my different beliefs were a little conflicted since I reported that there would, in fact, be an election.
Though many think it is wasteful to spend $20,000 on a special election, I am proud of Estill Countians for taking a stand. I am proud to say that next week my fellow citizens will exercise their rights and make a decision for themselves.
It’s been more than 50 years since the idea of letting alcohol sales become legal in our county was even an option. The fact that we are allowed the opportunity to decide for ourselves is a milestone in itself.
With all of my conflicting roles, I had to think long and hard about which way I would be voting come election time. Throughout my time covering this issue, I have been leaning in a particular direction, but didn’t feel safe making a firm stand on the issue until last week.
It was my own experiences with individuals who abuse alcohol that lead to my conclusion. For me, it took a good while to come to the conclusion that I will be voting wet on Jan. 15. Now, that I have decided for myself, I can share with my readers my reason for voting this way.
We simply can’t ignore the fact that legalized alcohol sales has the potential to boost our economy substantially. Allowing alcohol sales in our community encourages Estill Countians to shop local. Legalized alcohol sales will allow for a wider variety of restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses in our community.
It would also allow for the expansion of existing businesses. Restaurants, tobacco stores and gas stations that already exist can offer a product that has long been banished to surrounding communities.
Each new business and each expanded business leads to opportunities for new jobs and as our economy grows, so will our population.
Although it’s easy for me to see the economic benefits of alcohol sales locally, for me it’s most important that as a consenting adult, I am treated as though I am mature enough to make responsible decisions with my alcohol consumption.
Just about anywhere I drive around Estill County, I run into a yard sign declaring that “Alcohol destroys families.” I think this statement is a little misleading.
Yes, the presence of alcohol can have a damaging effect on a family. But this is only true if the consenting adults in that family choose to misuse and abuse alcohol.
A bottle of whiskey sitting in the kitchen cabinet doesn’t cause a family to become impoverished. A few bottles of wine in the cupboard aren’t the cause of broken families. A mixed drink or two cannot be blamed for the mistreatment, abuse or neglect of children or spouses.
People are to blame for each of these things. A father who develops a dependency on whiskey causes a family to become impoverished. A mother who uses wine to escape her problems causes a family to become broken. And, parents who choose those mixed drinks over their children are to blame for abuse, neglect and mistreatment.
We can’t keep blaming inanimate objects and substances for the wrongdoings of our neighbors. Alcohol isn’t to blame for destroyed families anymore than guns are to blame for murder. We don’t see signs outside our local pro-shops declaring “Guns kill people!”
To make such a claim would be unfair. This stands true with alcohol as well.
As a consenting adult, I can’t say that I’ve never had more than my fair share of drinks. But, whether drunk or sober, I have always been sure to make decisions that don’t place others in danger.
I have had enough drinks in my life to know that I am able to control myself, I am able to make the decision to not drive after drinking and I don’t make alcohol a priority in my life.
Those who aren’t able to do this are the ones that are destroying families.
How fair is it to punish responsible drinkers because of the few people that can’t determine when they’ve had one too many shots or when they’re too drunk to drive?
We can’t ignore the fact that there is alcohol in our county already… From what I’ve learned over the last several months, we have a pretty successful bootlegging culture in our community. Why are those who oppose legalized alcohol sales so concerned with alcohol-related crimes but choose to ignore the crime of bootlegging that runs rampant in the mountains of Estill County?
Are we to ignore the fact that bootleggers are making money off our citizens? Furthermore, is it fair that because I don’t buy alcohol illegally from bootleggers, I have to make a 20- to 40-minute drive to a surrounding county to purchase a bottle of wine, a case of beer or enjoy a drink with my meal at a restaurant?
I’ve had my own share of experiences with alcoholics in my lifetime. I am related to people who struggle with addiction and I have developed relationships with people who come from broken families as a result of alcoholism.
Myself and my loved ones will tell you: alcohol didn’t destroy their families… irresponsible drinkers did.
In my opinion, as a wet or dry county, we need to be educating our youth about the dangers of alcohol addiction. It may be too late for those families that are already destroyed by irresponsible drinkers, but we have a task of teaching the next generation about responsible drinking habits.
By pretending we don’t have alcohol in our community already and acting as if we are too good to offer this product to our citizens, we’re doing just the opposite.
We’re teaching people to be afraid of alcohol and to place blame on an inanimate substance for the problems our community has.
I respect the opinions of the opposing voters, but I believe it’s unfair to punish the many responsible drinkers because of the wrongdoings of the few irresponsible.
This is why I am voting wet on Jan. 15.