Letter From New York December 5, 2014 Repeal Day

Do you know what day it is today? Well, it’s December 5th and today is the day in 1934 that Prohibition was repealed. The Great Experiment was declared a failure and Utah became the state that triggered repeal though you couldn’t drink in Mississippi until 1966.

The Roaring ‘20’s, fueled by bathtub gin, had long since faded into the Great Depression and it was time for America to have a break. Brother, can you spare a beer?

So today is Repeal Day and there is a Repeal Day Cocktail Conference happening and I guess I will toast Repeal Day when I sit down for dinner tonight. It will be a bit of a celebration and I will mark it on my calendar for future years.

What I won’t be celebrating but will be acknowledging are the myriad protests that are being conducted regarding the failure of the Grand Jury to indict the police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

Two hundred some were arrested last night in New York and a photo of a spontaneous protest in Grand Central went viral. People began to lie down in the main hall until there were several hundred, imaging the death scene of Eric Garner.

In Phoenix there were marches because an unarmed black man was shot down there. Eric Holder went to Cincinnati to announce the results of a two year study of police there that didn’t portray them well; excessive force was one of the faults found with them.

It was said at one point that the election of Obama was going to usher in a post-racial era. It hasn’t and of late it has seemed the drumbeat of police violence against minorities has, if anything, increased.

The Mayor of New York, DeBlasio, is walking a fine line in being sympathetic to the protestors while being supportive of the police. It’s a tightrope.

But perhaps it is more than minorities. A white acquaintance was mugged on the Upper West Side a week ago and claimed the police treated him very badly when he reported the incident. His take from what he’s heard is that the police are intimidating folks so they don’t make reports so the crime statistics go up. They’re very down this year in the five boroughs, on the way to a record year of lows in most kinds of crime.

But the incidents of police violence towards minorities feels like it is on the upswing because of the high profile nature of Eric Garner’s death and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And they put a pall across the land. Putin’s Russia is having a field day with the stories as I’m sure are other countries less friendly to us. China, too, may be having a day with the stories. We lecture them regularly on human rights.

So while tonight I will be toasting Repeal Day, where we were freed from the yoke of Prohibition, I will not be raising a glass to law enforcement. I will do that on a day when there is a swing in relations and we feel that all are treated the same, regardless of color.

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