Evan Schwartz: Freedom to drink 40s

America is a land built on freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom to get drunk on anything we desire. America is a land of choices: between beer or vodka, peppermint schnapps or airplane bottles of tequila, rubbing alcohol or paint varnish.

On Wednesday, the D.C. City Council passed Councilman Jack Evans’ (Ward 2) proposed ban on “single sale” alcohol, most notably 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor.

This ban distresses me because I notice a fairly apparent economic bias behind such a law and also because malt liquor holds a fond spot in my heart, for the memories it has created and erased.

Washington, D.C., is a city of incredible wealth and incredible poverty. Banning the sale of all liquor may have a positive effect on the populace, but specifically banning lower-quality liquor targets a very specific consumer audience – the very poor who buy poor-quality liquor.

My first inclination when seeing such a proposal is not “who benefits?” but rather “who suffers?” Shirking responsibility is one of the great things about America, but it is frequently directed at illegal immigrants, social and racial minorities and the poor.

Does Evans really believe that taking malt liquor out of stores will lower crime, especially given the recent lifting of the handgun ban within the city limits? I think he probably does. Does Evans only drink 18-year-old bottles of Cognac VSOP while cackling maniacally? I think he probably does.

Evans makes a strong argument in favor of the ban, namely that restricting these sales would help curb public drunkenness and littering, pointing out that other areas of D.C. have enacted the ban and seen positive results.

This misses the point. Limiting freedoms will always cause people to fall in line, because that’s how dictatorships work. Yes, banning the sale of malt liquor would limit public drunkenness, but so would total prohibition – and, if we look at our history, that just led to the rise of Al Capone.

That’s why when I see a politician make a unilateral decision to ban the sale of affordable liquor in a city that has a great discrepancy between its very wealthy and very poor, I get a little outraged. It smacks of Marie Antoinette-style disregard for the poor.

But how, you say, does this affect me? Well, for one, I come from a wonderful city called New York, where the subway doesn’t shut down at 11 p.m. and the cacophony of 40-ounce bottles gleefully crashing to the pavement every night is the real pulse of the city.

I would be lost without the 40-ounce. Olde English and Colt 45 hold a special place in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, memorialized in songs by such diverse New York artists as The Strokes, Left?ver Crack and the incomparable Notorious B.I.G. (RIP).

Malt liquor runs through the streets of New York and through the veins of every New Yorker who has ever gazed up at the stars from a building rooftop on Broadway.

Malt liquor is the social lubricant for every teenager with only five dollars and 45 minutes to get drunk; malt liquor is the fuel that turns every teenager into Usain Bolt whenever cops are around; malt liquor is the last refuge for everyone has ever showed up at a lame party and thought, “Well, forget this.”

The Strokes said it best: “We could go and get forties/F— going to that party.”

What do you suggest we do now, Jack Evans? Go to that party? Now that the poor man’s malt liquor fountain is dry, maybe I’ll just stay home.

The writer is an undecided sophomore.

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