Alcohol poses a greater threat to America’s well-being than al-Qaida, argues this temperance manifesto.
Graybill (Bravo! The Case for Italian Musical Mastery, 2014, etc.), a retired history teacher, presents a wide-ranging and vehement indictment of alcoholic beverages and their destruction of the body, mind, and social fabric. He reviews statistics on alcohol’s death toll—88,000 per year in the United States—carcinogenic properties, and dire effects on the liver, brain, and developing fetuses. He revisits infamous alcoholic incidents, from the Bible story of Lot’s drunken seduction by his daughters to Edward Kennedy’s car crash at Chappaquiddick; toasts hatchet-wielding temperance crusader Carrie Nation; and mourns talents blighted by drink, from Hemingway to Lindsay Lohan. He surveys and deplores the cultural promotion and glamorization of alcohol, from winery tours to comped casino drinks, frat house hazings, and lovable comic-strip drunks like Andy Capp. At the book’s heart is a lurid litany of news reports about drunks and their disastrous antics: the pilot pulled out of the cockpit just before takeoff and the passenger who tried to open the cabin door in midflight; the woman who snuck into a zoo to pet a tiger; many men who tried to kill their girlfriends; and numerous drivers who left trails of mangled victims in their wakes. (The author includes a moving personal recollection of a family he knew that was profoundly damaged by the father’s alcoholic violence.) Graybill writes with an old-school moral outrage, decrying “the terrorist, alcohol” and thundering that “the tyrant, alcohol, had crushed our second great American Revolution” when Prohibition was repealed. He embellishes the text with anti-alcohol memes (“Sober Slogan #2: The horsefly is brainier than the barfly”), poems, and satirical songs (“Please, deceive me. Make me think / That I’m charming when I drink”). He proposes a battery of anti-drinking initiatives, some of them feasible, such as banning liquor industry ads and sponsorships, others impossibly utopian. (“There should never be a single drunkard employed within the vast and influential offices of the American media.”) The author’s partisanship and dudgeon will put off some readers, but he ably marshals his facts to craft a hard-hitting jeremiad.
A bombastic but vigorous and often persuasive case against drinking.