Them vs Us

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to someone else.”

— Will Rogers

by Harry Caines

In the past few weeks, I have used this space to explain how the lack of innovation amongst Utahns in positions of political power costs the state money. One of the issues that I believe Utah is short-sighted and ignorant about—always a hot topic of conversation—are the arcane liquor laws that Utah lawmakers seem unwilling to negotiate to a more moneymaking friendly solution.

Most Utahns that believe the liquor laws in this state are counterproductive, or just downright silly, view this issue through a very narrow lens. We—and I say we because I am one of them—see this as a form of control wielded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Mormon Church and its adherents make up a large percentage of the population of Utah. And the Mormon Church has strict guidelines regarding the abstention of alcoholic consumption by its members. Ironically, they also believe that Mormons in good standing (i.e. temple worthy) should keep the Sabbath day holy by refraining from buying goods on Sunday; yet, I see plenty of white-shirted men in Smith’s and Wal-Mart on that solemn day of the week. But I digress.

No issue seems to put Mormons and non-Mormons in Utah into fits of consternation more than alcohol. And it is this issue that I believe creates a level of animosity between the two groups that festers into stereotypes and acrimony.

Let us use the most egregious and stupefying law Utah had on its books regarding alcohol. The so-called “Zion Curtain”. This law—revised, but not eliminated on Wednesday—dictates that restaurants must have some form of a partition that excludes workers from preparing alcoholic drinks in view of patrons. The motivation for this is supposed to be curtailing young children from becoming enamored with these potent concoctions.

This makes as much sense as barring children from staring at the moon lest they grow an addiction to cheese.

This law does not stop children from seeing the drinks at other patrons’ tables. You will not prevent them from noticing the joy those consuming the drinks experience. And no one seems to take umbrage or find any fault in the crap these impressionable young darlings put down their throats that does not contain alcohol.

NEWS FLASH: Soda is bad for kids. Ban that! And those kids’ meals have enough calories in them to knock out a thundering herd of mastodons. Given that that animal is now extinct, one has to wonder if it was the over consumption of chili cheese fries that did them in.

For us that enjoy a drink now and then, it is beyond all reasonable thought to believe that children who witness the mixing of a drink is tantamount to optical cancer. But there it is.

This, and other laws based on flawed thinking regarding alcohol consumption, creates a separation of logic. Of course, there are people who cannot control the adverse effects alcohol has on them. But, and this is meant to be a churlish jab, the history of the world is filled with atrocities committed on a mass scale by those with a fanatical belief in religion. Too much of anything is bad for you.

And you do not stop alcoholism by making it harder to go to restaurants or bars to have a drink. You make it considerably harder. Try to follow this logic:

If Cache Valley wooed more establishments to the downtown Logan area that served alcohol, law enforcement would have a finely targeted area to search for those who drink too much and drive. With such limited choices currently available for those who want a libation, most people drink cheap beer at a friend’s house for a private gathering and then drive home.

Since these gatherings are unknown to police and can be anywhere, there are few analytical options available to utilize in stopping impaired driving. You only find drunk drivers if they are swerving on the road; or, if they kill someone in a car collision. Restrictive liquor laws do not deter drunk driving. It just makes it harder to find.

And this leads me to my most pressing point. Running Utah as a theocracy makes many feel like second class citizens. The fact that so many elected representatives in Utah have no problems “consulting” the Mormon Church about changes in secular laws is both a scandalous derelict of duty and, most disgracefully, un-American.

For us not of a mind to submit to a religious authority, this comes off as a group of minions elected to do the work of promoting Mormonism over the good of Utahns as a whole. Utah Mormons do not benefit from the enactment of laws that stifle economic growth and diminishes taxable goods and services. But they sit quietly and allow this to happen.

And the rest of us do what comes naturally to most humans (and a majority of wild pack animals) that believe they are treated unjustly by “them.” We band together. We seek refuge in the company of others like us.

That is why when I speak of things in Cache Valley, I often mention The White Owl and Caffe Ibis. For many, these places provide a level of social interaction and commonly-held understanding amongst the patrons that can be soothing to the mind and soul. It is altogether appropriate to find solace in the company of people who are also oppressed by a religious majority—which will just be a plurality in the near future. There is a term for this that applies to Logan.

Social apartheid.

Many of us that stare at Mormons with disdain for either promoting our relegation to a lesser stature or feel vexed by them that do nothing to stand in solidarity with our grievances, want to be apart. And to tell us to move away would not benefit those who stay. Most of us are not going anywhere.

We will live in this status of social apartheid and continue to drive to Idaho and other places not Utah, to get the things we want that this state does not provide. We will continue to congregate in our cozy enclaves so as to feel comfort with each other in defiance of the organized religion that does nothing to eliminate the stereotypes that not only insult us but also loses money.

And if we should live to see the day that we can tear down the apparatus that has treated us as a lesser form of resident of this state, we shall rejoice. Mostly likely with large quantities of beer.

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