Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Great Beer Debate...

No, I'm not referring to the "Beer Summit" that took place at the White House last week. "The Great Beer Debate" took place this morning in our lil ol' town here in the buckle of the Bible Belt and, as expected, it provided me with some free entertainment and fodder for a blog post.

Some of my readers from other parts of the country, the more civilized parts, will think I'm kidding but the debate concerned whether the local Wal Mart Superstore should be granted a license to sell 3.2 beer in the store. And if you are from a state other than Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota or Utah, you'll probably be going, "What's 3.2 beer???".

First up, I'll attempt to explain what this sort of beer is and then a little something about Oklahoma liquor laws. From Wikipedia:

Low-point beer, which is often called “three-two beer” or “3 point 2 brew,” is beer that contains 3.2% alcohol by weight (equivalent to 4% ABV).

The term “low-point beer” is unique to the United States, where some states limit the sale of beer, but beers of this type are also available in countries (such as Sweden and Finland) that tax or otherwise regulate beer according to its alcohol content.

The states of Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah permit general establishments such as supermarket chains and convenience stores to sell only low-point beer. In these states, all alcoholic beverages containing more than 3.2% alcohol by weight (ABW) must be sold from state-licensed liquor stores. Oklahoma additionally requires that any beverage containing more than 3.2% ABW must be sold at normal room temperature.

Missouri also has a legal classification for low-point beer, which it calls “nonintoxicating beer.” Unlike Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah, however, Missouri does not limit supermarket chains and convenience stores to selling only low-point beer. Instead, Missouri’s alcohol laws permit grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, and even “general merchandise stores” (a term that Missouri law does not define) to sell any alcoholic beverage; consequently, 3.2% beer is rarely sold in Missouri.

For a good overview of Oklahoma's liquor laws, you can read this Wikipedia entry. Here is my favorite part:

Public consumption of Low-alcohol_beer in Norman on the day of University of Oklahoma football games is permitted in the area around the stadium. Consumption of hard liquor or consumption in other parts of the city is still obstinately forbidden, although not often enforced (on game days) in practice.

Because we all know that even God Himself tosses back a cold one when he watches the Sooners play.

So now that you have the necessary background information, I will attempt to describe the scene in the courthouse this morning. The small room was crowded with a disproportionate number of men belonging to what I refer to as "The Old Man, Button-up, Short-sleeve Shirt Club". I attended with my daughter and two people from the young adults group we lead at church (not a sponsored activity; we just like hanging out together). To say we stood out in the crowd would be an understatement, even if I hadn't been wearing my peace sign necklace.

I suppose I ought to mention that I really have no stake in this debate as I don't shop at Wal Mart and I don't drink beer. Still, I believe that Wal Mart has the right to sell legal products as they see fit. They are, after all, a retail establishment with a goal of turning a profit. And, as the local manager so eloquently put it, "Wal Mart is not the moral conscience of the community."

Most of the people who spoke today mentioned the dangers of alcohol consumption and their fears that more people would drink if they could get it at Wal Mart. I'm not entirely sure why this should be the case when all the many convenience stores carry beer and most of them even have a drive-thru window but many times emotion trumps logic.

Speaking of emotion, one woman tearfully shared a story about how the Ardmore Wal Mart sells beer and that a worker at a youth detention center (or something like that; she was hard to understand) took some of their clients to Wal Mart and a couple of them each purchased a beer. I figured there was going to be a tragic story involving a car accident but she concluded by saying she didn't know what happened to those young men after they purchased those beers. Hmm...I'm guessing they drank them.

There were approximately 40 people in attendance and aside from our little group, only one man was in favor of Wal Mart selling beer. He works at Wal Mart and is originally from Oregon. He said that instead of preaching "don't" we should be preaching "moderation". He made several calm and rational comments in favor of the request for a license.

My daughter expressed her concerns about where one draws the line in telling a private business what they can sell. She pointed out she is an environmentalist who might like to see Wal Mart no longer sell incandescent bulbs, but that most of the people in that room would be very much against that.

After everyone who wanted to speak had their say, the judge said that despite his or anyone else's opinion about whether this is a good thing or not, Wal Mart was within their legal rights to sell beer and had followed all proper legal requirements. As such, he would be approving their request for a license.

At this point it had all been mildly amusing and not terribly surprising. The four of us stood in the lobby area of the courthouse chatting about what had just happened when the man who had been seated behind us interrupted our conversation. This is what my daughter wrote about the encounter:

A pastor after came over to my friends and me and said "I hope it doesn't come back to bite you." To which my mom and I pointed out that two of our family members were killed by a drunk driver and my friend pointed out that two of her friends were killed. Then he says to my mom that she is going to die someday but that doesn't mean he has to hold a gun to her head and shoot her. To which I asked if that means he is against people owning guns (had to ask it a half a dozen times). He then tells me, "Young lady, I have been debating this for a long time, before you were born." to which I and others with me said that was very rude and condescending.

I think all four of us audibly gasped when this *gentleman* said this to Lisa. The words alone don't adequately convey the totally rude attitude he exhibited. You'd have to have been there but trust me when I say he completely blew her off and treated her as though she couldn't possibly have anything of value to add to the discussion. At this point "mild amusement" turned to "angry mama bear". Don't be dissing my girl. He realized he wouldn't get anywhere with us at that point so he left with some parting shot I don't remember.

Now comes the good part. I knew he looked familiar but none of us could place him. We asked the newspaper reporter if he knew his name. He wasn't 100% certain but told us what he thought his last name was. That's when it occurred to me who it probably was. Lisa did a little online research and discovered that he is an "evangelist" who has served as a youth minister at seven Oklahoma churches and conducted over a thousand revivals. When I told David about what happened, he reminded me of something this man had been involved in many years ago with his business. Neither of us can remember the details but let's just say that if we're talking about morality, I'll take the beer drinkers over his actions any day. I just hope he treats the youth he ministers to with more respect than he showed my daughter today.

People have differing opinions about alcohol consumption and that's perfectly fine. However, I do resent the implication that even moderate use is immoral. There are plenty of good reasons for some people to abstain. But around here the prevailing attitude amongst those attending conservative churches is that anyone who isn't a teetotaller is deliberately sinning. They have no frame of reference for the many, many Christians from other denominations who find nothing in the Bible which forbids moderate alcohol consumption. The fact that the first recorded miracle which Jesus performed was that of turning water into wine at a wedding feast seems to escape their notice. And no, it wasn't grape juice. ;)

Legislating morality has never been wildly successful but apparently that doesn't stop people from attempting to foist their personal beliefs and biases on others. In this case, the rule of law won out over a desire to control the choices of others in our community. Kudos to the judge.


Lisa Sharp said...

Great blog and Ralph told someone about the whole thing and she knew who he was and remembered what he did and said he is a total jerk.

I just don't see what the point was.

Deanna said...

The point was that he has set himself up as the arbiter of community standards.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Kudos to you and your daughter for standing for liberty. I've been following the story of the Free the Hops campaign in Alabama which was successful in legalizing the sale of beer with an alcohol content of greater than 6% (real beer). I'm particularly impressed that your daughter stood up for the liberty of someone else when she stood nothing to gain herself, especially in the face of ignorant but vocal opposition. I think it takes real courage to stand for principles like that.

Cherie said...

Good for you and Lisa for standing up to a bully!

Deanna said...

I'm always proud of my daughter. :)

Joy said...

I'm sure karma will come back to bite this man in the butt. I told my mom about what he had said to Lisa and she didn't seem so surprised. In fact, it kind of made us see a little bit into why his son, who is a friend of our family, may be the almost total opposite. Who could live with a man like that and not want to be completely different?

Good blog, as usual. Sometimes I really hate living in this part of the country. Oklahoma at least.

Deanna said...

You know, despite stuff like this, I really do like Ada, and Oklahoma. Yes, there are some rather provincial, small-minded people here but there are also a lot of genuinely kind and friendly folks.

Every location has its pluses and minuses. While I may point out some of the foolishness I see at times, for the most part I focus on what is good in my day to day life. That may not come across in this blog because this is my place to expose hypocrisy, lies, errors of logic and share some of my not-so-mainstream ideas.

However, most of the time I'm noticing the fact that we still have gentlemen who hold the door for me, or offer to carry bags of feed to my car at Tractor Supply. I am always heartened by the outpouring of love and support (and casseroles) whenever a family experiences a death. I like the fact that I almost always run into people I know when I go to town.

There is plenty to appreciate here in our little town and that's honestly what I notice the most. It's just that stuff like this "beer debate" makes for more interesting blog posts. ;)

Mary Ann Kelley said...

He sounds like a very miserable person who feels the need to spread the misery around.