Monday, November 23, 2009

From Suppression to Celebration

This weekend, one of the coolest parties ever planned in our town was a roaring success. There were no invitations, no known alcoholic beverages and if you went, you'll never tell. Details were spread only by word of mouth, you wouldn't THINK of entering through the front door, and while many imbibed, I doubt they could tell you exactly what they were imbibing with. Can you guess what this party was celebrating? One more hint. Pinstriped suits and fringed dresses were all the rage.

It was a Prohibition Party!


Held by a Hostess with the Mostest whom shall not be named, all beer and wine labels were removed and any liquid entering the "speakeasy" had to be in unmarked containers. My sources tell me there may have even been a real live jazz band churning out tunes in the style of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington.

While Prohibition may be long over (and Thank Heavens for that!), the 13-year failed experiment in reducing alcohol-related crime has no doubt left a legacy on America. The era has been described as a time when people drank more than ever, when the black market boomed with mob-run liquor distributors, and popular celebrities entertained at underground nightclubs.

What is it about the act of prohibiting a thing that makes us humans desire it even more? As a little girl, when I was just starting to be allowed to use child-scissors I remember sitting at the table as my mother left the room warning "only cut the paper or you'll be in BIG TROUBLE!" Ten minutes later I had 1/2 inch bangs, holes in my dress and a welt on my little behind (this was way before spanking became another prohibited behavior!).

This Thanksgiving, I am trying to be grateful for the things in my life that were at one point banned or at the very least, frowned upon. Obviously, the fact that I can have a Mimosa on a random Monday in the comfort of my own home is one. That I am able to blog about my experience as a 20-something job seeker when others are still restricted is another. Still another, is that I can be encouraged and excited, watching many of my dear female friends start businesses when not-too-long ago Rosie the Riveter was the glorified example of a "working woman."

The decisions our government is making or has made in the near past may be exalted or shamed someday as history marches on. Only time will tell, but I think that the rough global economy has inadvertently prohibited some freedoms previously taken for granted. For example: all hardworking, educated people will have jobs that pay they what they're worth and will assist with health insurance. Keeping your "nose clean" and showing up each day means that The Man will be gracious in issuing retirement pensions. The American Dream is attainable to all who cross her borders.

Maybe I am nay-saying a bit on that last one. Perhaps by discouraging loose loans and demanding that companies be more efficient with their dollars and their labor, this prohibitive time period we are now living in is actually creating a new economy - much like that of the underground entertainment that existed in the 1920s. Where before, I know I was guilty of over-spending and under-thinking, of being complacent in my job and too busy to be active in my community, now I am constantly thinking about going back to school, about starting my own business, about participating in local government and fighting to bring about social change. As these thoughts solidify and new people in my life encourage their growth, I may be celebrating this time of economic prohibition almost as much as the revelers this weekend did in celebrating alcoholic prohibition!

If you are feeling ill-at-ease these days, I encourage you to take heart - listen to that squirming little voice that begs you to cut out a new place for you, not to listen to the warnings of others or settle for the status quo, and to seek out like-minded people. And I promise - as hard as it is, I will be doing the same.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

You've brought up some very interesting points to ponder. It's true that prohibition is counter productive - like how if I say "don't think about an apple." What do you think about? It's impossible not to. The aricle about cencorship in China was very interesting. I'm glad I don't live under that form of government. I think that there are positive things happening in this bad economy that we can be proud of as Americans with freedom of speech and the right to define our lives by what we are passionate about...more and more entrepeneurs are getting the guts to go for it. Yes, it's incredibly difficult out there - but any little step in the direction of your dreams is powerful. Support is key - likeminds to give encouragement and help spread the word. I agree that an active and supportive social and economic community is growing, especially through the help of social media which makes it easier to connect and build networks.
And I for one, do not mourn the decline of our debt-based consumerist culture (which I really hope will not return). I hope we are on the brink of a new era of regained respect and patrongage of local business, local farmers, smaller companies and new business models in which good social and environmental values trump profits at any cost. As far as healthcare, I believe that we should all have it, as a universal right, whether employed or not.
And by the way, your sisors and dress story was very funny... :). Thanks for this thoughtful post!

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