Thursday November 27, 2014

The limits of our tolerance


The times have changed from when my grandparents and even parents were young and stupid.

Some things that were once acceptable are now taboo, while others that were covered up and tucked into the closet with shame are now shining in the limelight. The ubiquity of sex in our culture is something that didn’t exist 70 years ago when my grandparents were born; at least that’s what I’ve learned from the history books. Some may say it’s hedonistic, while others would argue the evolution has been a removal of the shackles.

I love talking to my grandpa about his old party stories. He will talk about how in high school the police would tell the school dance organizers they would be doing a raid that night. The police let them know just so everybody else would know they were coming. He said the police would show up and as long as they didn’t see any bottles of contraband, they would leave quietly.

“They didn’t want to see it,” he tells me.

Those rascals of the ’50s I say!

After the dance, everybody drove home. Nobody saw any problem with that. It was a sign of the times.
My great uncle Doug used to measure distances with beers instead of actual distances or time, which we frequently use. He was drinking as he drove.

“It’s two beers to Blyth. It’s five beers to Listowel.”

That’s what my grandfather will tell me, usually with a little chuckle of nostalgia for the good ’ol days.
Because I grew up with people always telling me drinking and driving kills people, it’s something I don’t take lightly.

As the Mercury court reporter, twice a week I see just how many people in the community answer to charges of impaired driving. It’s probably the same in every other community across the country. Impaired driving is still one of the most common offences our police officers deal with.

Everybody knows it’s wrong. Everybody is aware of the penalties involved, but there still isn’t enough stigma attached to impaired driving. It’s still way too normal to be truly renounced by our society. That just isn’t OK.

People are still being “caught” for drinking and driving. It’s a term that isn’t really appropriate, because it isn’t about being caught, it’s about being charged. It’s well known that people often drink and drive hundreds, even thousands, of times before they are charged, and that won’t ever change. It’s unrealistic to think we will have a system that detects every single act of drunk driving.

I have friends who have dealt with the charges before. The Mercury’s own Chad Saxon was convicted in his younger days. I know people who have killed others while driving under the influence, and it’s in no way something that should ever be shrugged off as a momentary lapse in judgment.

It’s completely unacceptable, and it’s time that we see it as such. There is nothing normal about impaired driving. People who face these charges don’t need to be vilified as horrible people, but we should certainly let them know that their behaviour is not tolerated.

I like to think that the evolution of attitudes towards certain subjects in our society is one that moves in a forward direction. Our attitude on impaired driving stiffened the law, but we still have progress to make on how we actually feel about it.



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