Dear Gayle,

What do you think of the new law coming that people in the military will now be allowed to drink at the age of 18?

— Boy Wonder

Dear Wonder,

I did hear that this was coming, but I haven’t had time to read about it yet. I do not know if it is a done deal, or not, but some parts of it surprise me. As you likely know, at one time, many states allowed its citizens to drink alcohol legally at age 18 and up. Because of the many drunk-driving-related accidents and deaths, the federal government decided to lean heavily on those states to raise their legal age to 21. When those states balked at doing this, the federals added more pressure by telling the country that those states that did not choose to comply would be considered to be acting outside of the best interests of the nation as a whole, and that the federals would be withholding certain services currently supplied by them to those states who could now expect to pick up the tab for those things — most to do with highways — all on their own from then on. Every one of the affected states succumbed to the tremendous pressure, and changed their drinking-age laws to the now-standardized age of 21.

Obviously, those who served in the military at ages 18 through 20 felt disrespected by this move. This was especially true for those who had already been drinking legally for some time. “I’m old enough to be allowed to risk my life for my country,” they would say, “yet I’d be arrested for buying a beer.”

There is more to it than that, of course. The country must be having trouble recruiting, and/or maintaining the current force, or this would never have come up. Given the problems that alcohol causes, and the greater likelihood that young military personnel engaged in drinking are more apt to be doing so in a party-style mood, rather than as spaghetti, or pizza eaters looking for a beer, or maybe two to go with their Italian food, we can expect more negative issues to arise related to this change. Mix in testosterone, bravado, work stress, relationship stress, loneliness, and driving, to name a few, and you have issues that may become much larger than the current recruiting and retention headaches.

Keep in mind that the original age-raising would never have adequately addressed the stated problem. Adulthood may be legally attained in most spheres at ages 18 or 21, but it has been shown that full emotional adulthood does not settle in for most of us until age 26. Yes, I questioned that when I first heard it, too, but I have looked into it since then, and I now agree with that number. I do not believe that any of us would expect to see a drinking age limit to climb to that age. The many poor choices embraced by many of us prior to age 26 will still be with us, and never left.

In short, I do not see any easy fix for this. It seems that our leaders are determined to change things once again. Our job will be to survive yet one more well-meaning change from our elected and unelected bureaucrats.

Dear Readers,

I have become keenly aware of something lately. In the past several months I have noticed greater politeness all around me. I cannot seem to shop without having others apologize for needing to walk in front of me, warmly greet me as holding a door for me, speak more friendly words than are needed to learn what elevator floor button I would like to have pressed for me by someone standing closer to the panel. While some of these took place in the past, it is the frequency and intensity with which I am finding them that is pulling my notice. I invite you to be watching for this phenomena. I had been spending years noticing that society had been becoming less polite in general, so it is refreshing to be on the cusp of discovering that the pendulum appears to be starting its wide swing back. I for one intend to encourage this wonderful behavior in any ways I may find to do so. May this be your experience as well.

[Write to Gayle at: LV MY TAKE ON IT, 435 Broad Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, or send email to where your anonymity will be maintained in keeping with all current HIPAA standards. Not all letters can be answered, but those that might have broader interest among our readers are more likely to be chosen. If you believe that you have something useful to add to a published response, please send it along; it will be considered.]

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