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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Prohibition - PBS TV, a Review

Prohibition a three-part television program produced by Ken Burns on PBS.

Television at its finest is the program Prohibition. We see that the U.S. government was pressured into passing the 18th amendment to the Constitution which made alcohol illegal. The television program shows and tells us how it came about, what were the consequences and how it was repealed. It is told vividly and dramatically using old still pictures, movies and detailed narratives to bring the viewer into the very times it was all happening. The clothes, the cars, the characters, the buildings, farms, small towns and big cities of our vast country draw us into other eras.

The drys weredetermined to end drinking of alcohol as the way to stop drunkenness, broken homes, abuse of women and children, job loss, production interruption and alcoholism. The wets did not want laws passed controlling their behavior and right to drink. They also made fortunes making beer and whiskey as well as producing jobs for distillers, barrel makers, glassmakers, brewers, and farmers growing corn and grain. The taxes helped the government.

The rigid determination and organization of the drys won out and the 18th Amendment was passed into law in 1919. The Protestant churches supported the amendment. Only the Episcopalians and Lutherans refrained. The intended consequences were that there was a drop in alcohol consumption and alcoholism. Breweries and distillers and saloons closed down.

The unintended consequences sprang into life almost immediately. Speakeasies, scofflaws, illegal importing and smuggling of alcohol into the country began at once. Illegal booze made some people sick, blind and dead. Gangsters using sophisticated business methods produced whiskey and beer and distributed it to the customers who lined up to drink. Otherwise law-abiding citizens who wanted to drink felt bad but went ahead buying and drinking illegal booze.

The third part of the series reports the movement toward and final repeal of the 18th amendment by the 21st Amendment in 1933. This finale is made dramatic with film and audio footage of the nomination and election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President of the United States. He opposed the 18th amendment.

This wonderful TV series raises the issues of attempts to control people’s behavior, of single-minded rigidity and pressure politics. Americans today want most drugs to be illegal like marijuana, cocaine, LSD and so-called recreational drugs. As a result there is a vast illegal drug trade throughout the United States. Drugs are easily available in most high schools and colleges, places of business and even in prisons. Jails bulge with men and women serving sentences for possession and use of even the least harmful drugs. Misinformation is given to children hoping they will refrain from drug use. The kids regard these classes as a joke. Illegal drugs are a multi billion-dollar industry in this country.

Prostitution is outlawed almost everywhere and flourishes all over the place. Where there is demand there is supply. It too is a multi-billion-dollar that goes untaxed. Women continue to be demeaned, injured and exploited by corrupt police as well as by their pimps and customers.

The rigidity of the National Rifle Association’s opposition to any controls means that guns are easily available to youngsters, the mentally and emotionally disturbed and people in a rage for vengeance. City teen gangs find all the guns they want. Many members of the NRA would like more flexibility about some gun control but the leaders at the top rigidly oppose any gun control.

AIPAC - The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is another example of a rigid organization committed to defend Israel in the U.S. at all costs. They lobby against any legislator on the local, state or national level that questions Israel’s treatment of Palestinians or in any way questions U.S. support of Israel. Our legislators, fearing reprisals from this and other groups, refrain from serious debate on the abuses of the Palestinians.

Prohibition taught us that Americans must be aware that some groups in our country try to control our behavior and our thinking. They are not open to serious discussion or debate. They are only interested in getting their way. Of course that is a natural tendency in all of us. We all want our own way.

I am a firm believer in democracy, freedom of speech and the interchange of ideas. We must always be aware of our own tendencies and of those who who want to control us and our behavior and values.

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