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February 14, 2006 - Oklahoma Daily (OK Edu)

U.S. Double Standard Not Understood Abroad

By Sarah Waldrop (Waldrop is a journalism junior. Her column appears every other Wednesday)

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Walk into just about any supermarket or corner store in Colima, Mexico, and you'll find an impressive wall of liquors for sale -- everything from tequila to scotch.

Walk into a liquor store in Oklahoma, and if you're under 21, you'll be kicked out. Bars have mandated closing times; and complicated, county-specific regulations govern when, where and how alcohol can be sold.

And yet, the U.S. sees about 45,000 drunk-driving deaths per 100,000 population as compared with about 14,000 of the same per 100,000 population in Mexico, according to Pan American Health Organization statistics for the late 1990s.

Walk into a club in Mexico, and although dirty dancing is basically the same the world over, most guys will keep a respectful distance. Men stare, honk and catcall at women walking down the street as a matter of course, but by and large, you won't be followed or harassed.

Walk into a house party at OU, and it's a safe bet that most guys there are more interested in copping a feel than in moving to the music.

The only guy who will yell at you as you walk down the South Oval is Preacher Gary, but instead of a simple "hey, beautiful," he'll cry "whore!" because you, as a woman, have the audacity to wear pants.

And yet the U.S. is where "wardrobe malfunctions" at the Super Bowl cause furors over broadcast decency standards.

In America, the Kansas attorney general is currently involved in a trial over whether the state can force health-care providers to report all adolescent sexual activity, even as simple as French kissing or "lewd touching," to the proper authorities.

It looks to me like we have a little hypocrisy problem.

Our culture wants to have it all. We want to be both completely upstanding and completely liberated. It doesn't work that way.

Socially, we draw many of our ideas about what is right from probably the most repressed group in history: religious fanatics who perfected seeing the speck of sawdust in a brother's eye but not the log in one's own. But politically, we pride ourselves on our freedoms -- of expression, of religion, of sexuality.

This sets us up for a bit of a culture shock within our own borders.

A part of us wants to be the city on the hill, the shining example of the straight path. Another part wants to get plastered on Thursday nights, inhale junk food until we drive the obesity crisis to monstrous proportions and watch the pop tartlet of the moment writhe in leather chaps and tongue other women.

So we become Puritan moralists having a Roman orgy. Rush Limbaugh with a drug problem. Bill Bennett, "Book of Virtues" author, who can't keep away from the gambling tables.

Anti-terrorist crusaders whose death penalty laws put us in company with countries our president branded the "Axis of Evil."

We talk out of both sides of our mouths and expect the rest of the world to take us seriously. I haven't been living abroad long, but it's already apparent that such an attitude doesn't give us much moral and political currency with other cultures.

Perhaps, as a first step toward building that currency, we could take some lessons from those other cultures. In many countries, people are more open about their enjoyment of life's pleasures -- a cute member of the opposite sex or a few beers with friends.

But unlike their American counterparts, most people in this world haven't made an art form of taking that enjoyment way too far.

It's time to recognize our own hypocrisy and face it as a possible source of our problems. We can't think of the "War on Drugs" as a "Colombian thing" while leaving in place a draconian drug-law system that punishes victims while all but ignoring our voracious demand.

We can't continue exporting crass, cheap pop culture while bemoaning the rest of the world's unwillingness to follow our lead in moral matters.

That log in our national eye is starting to get pretty irritating. Maybe it's time we looked inward before telling everyone else how to fix their sawdust problems.

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