Dichotomy

by Jean Swearingen, July 9, 2013

Once again, I feel absolutely compelled to respond to another of Mark Scaramella’s front page articles, this one in the July 3rd edition, on boozing in Mendocino County. I believe that I am in a unique position to comment on this issue, being a multiple DUI offender, the most recent conviction (from my arrest upon returning to Ukiah from attending the Mendocino County Fair in Boonville last September 15th) having occurred last December, ten days before I moved from Clearlake to Ukiah.

From 1977, the year I met my ex-husband, until 1995, the year I came to my senses and rejoined the folds of the political party (Democratic) of my parents and all of their friends, I was a member of the California Republican Party. This is a part of my past that I am not particularly proud to report, but it was an educational experience, on many levels. For several months in both the spring and fall of 1982, I even had a paid position on the campaign of a Sacramento candidate for the State Assembly (Republican, of course) who won the primary election but was then defeated in the general election by his Democratic opponent.

The reason I bring this up (there is a point here, I promise) is that this position afforded me contact with a prospective member of the family of H. L. “Bill” Richardson, at that time the highly influential head of the gun lobby (Gun Owners of America) in California. Given two months off during the summer while the campaign focused on fundraising, I was grateful for the time to spend with my two-and-a-half-year-old son, particularly as I had recently become pregnant with his younger brother. When I returned to the job in the fall, Ron Herbertson, son of Assemblywoman Doris Allen (representing one of the districts in Southern California) and fiancé of Richardson’s younger daughter Carrie, had been hired to work with me. My salary, for essentially running the campaign office in the spring, remained at $800 a month — Ron received $1,200 a month for taking over half of my duties. But I digress — my other connection with Richardson’s family was my status as a member of the Sacramento Symphony Chorus for six years, of which Sam Paredes (one of the nicest men I have ever known), Richardson’s son-in-law by virtue of his marriage to Richardson’s older daughter Laurie, was also a member.

I bring this up in relation to my original topic (boozing in Mendocino County) because the most popular slogan of both Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association (whose leader, Charlton Heston, Michael Moore took on with a vengeance in one of his documentaries, “Columbine”) was, and I assume still is: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Applying that to the subject of Mark’s article, one could just as easily paraphrase the quote to state: “Liquor stores don’t make people drunk, people make people drunk.” In my opinion, despite a plethora of “statistics” to the contrary, bars and liquor stores are no more responsible for their patrons’ irresponsible behavior than parents in households containing no books are responsible for the illiteracy of their children. One of the main reasons that public libraries and literacy programs exist is for the purpose of mitigating the negative effects of poverty on the education of children.

I was also slightly amused by the report, in the Sheriff’s Log on page 8, of the six people who were arrested for being drunk in public outside of the Music Festival, the last of which was followed by “Ed note: Considering that 7-8000 people were in Boonville for the festival, arrests were minimal.” Although you make a valid point, somehow I don’t think the six people who were arrested give a (pardon the expression) rat’s ass about the “statistics.” I doubt very seriously that they were the only six people drunk in public throughout the duration of the festival — they just happened to be the six who got caught.

To continue my original point and take it to its logical conclusion, the festival itself was no more responsible for those six arrests than the fair (or the saloon across the street) was responsible for mine last September. Anyone who knowingly engages in irresponsible (and illegal) behavior is playing the odds that they won’t get caught, fully aware of the consequences if they do.

In defense of us considerably less than “law-abiding citizens,” however, I agree that the wine and beer culture of Mendocino County does not make it easy for us to stay on the straight and narrow path and stay out of trouble. Since the beginning of May, when the County Collections Department moved their office from the courthouse on State Street to the Administration Building on Low Gap Road (both of which, fortunately, are within equal walking distance of where I live), when I take the short hike over there on the first of each month to pay the installment on my court fee, I am subjected to a panorama of large photos on the walls on both sides, advertising all of the joys of Mendocino County living — the overwhelming majority of which are being in such close proximity to so many wonderful wineries.

I have two final points in summation, one of which is that I agree that substance abuse education in the schools, even at the elementary level, is an excellent idea. Since my parents were teetotalers, I grew up with no modeling for responsible drinking, and had to learn the hard way by being thrust into the boozing culture prevalent in college dorm life in the 1970s. Having some guidelines for drinking in moderation would have been really helpful.

Finally, law enforcement is even bigger business than liquor sales.

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