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Alcohol attitude is root of problem

An issue that has been — no pun intended — brewing in our community for weeks is nothing new.

Natchez — or some of it anyway — prides itself on being a drinking town. We have plenty of downtown bars, dozens of Mardi Gras parties and balls, grand social affairs for Pilgrimage and backyard barbecues where alcohol is the guest of honor.

That’s fine; it’s legal.

But unfortunately drinking doesn’t always stop short of breaking the law.

Natchez aldermen were correct to raise a red flag and ask for action recently when violence in local bars became a concern. Violent fights, even shootings, are not legal.

Bar owners proposed a list of solutions Monday night, all of which sounded good, but a few of which seemed easier said than done.

It will be up to the aldermen to keep a heavy hand on the bars to protect the people of our city, but it will be up to the community to make changes where it counts.

Turn your eyes to Jackson and perhaps the heart of the issue becomes apparent.

Mississippi lawmakers recently passed a new law that makes it a crime for parents to host parties for teenagers where alcohol is consumed.

It’s absurd that we even need such a law, really, but it’s very telling.

Parents who host parties, provide shuttle service and allow teens to drink obviously believe that alcohol is a necessary element to make the party fun for the kids.

That message is clearly delivered to the teens that grow up learning the lesson that drinking is the only way to have fun.

Drunken teens miss the coming of age lessons on how to socially interact when sober and how to enjoy simple conversation.

As adults, that alcohol abuse may continue, and, in a few cases, the behavior it causes becomes violent enough to require intervention by the local aldermen.

It’s a cycle that’s not unique to Natchez but that few in town seem to be willing to challenge.

Lawmakers and state officials hope the new law, which carries a misdemeanor charge and a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail, will raise enough awareness to decrease the number of parent-approved drinking parties.

It’s a start, but the state must use education, marketing and plain common sense to begin changing two other states of mind.

First, more people must realize that life can be fun without alcohol.

Second, parents, often young themselves, must stop worrying about being “cool” or being their child’s friend. A parent’s job is not to win the apparent love and affection of their teen by throwing the coolest party or even simply turning a blind eye to underage drinking.

In just a few years time, the Miss-Lou has seen too many alcohol-related teenage tragedies that the message should be loud and clear. Allowing your child to believe underage drinking is OK is not OK.

Teaching a teenager that it’s OK to do something they know is illegal is only setting them up for a lifetime of questioning authority and ignoring the law.

Violence in our bars today is a fire burning that must be put out quickly, but if city and community leaders don’t clear the area of fire hazards and put away the gas the flames will rage for decades to come, engulfing more and more of our community with each year that passes.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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