Special Reports

Open cross-generational dialogue on issues

All the talk of excessive drinking has struck a nerve with me.

Those of us “of a certain age” all have memories of our youth. Some of those are of college days, some are of our first working days, when we first had money to burn. Sometimes those memories are inflated by a rosy glow, but others are more serious.

In any case, there are many of us who can empathize with young people who are out having a good time.

What we can’t empathize with is the constant out-of-control behavior, the drunken incursion into neighborhoods, the general disregard for other people and their property, the lack of respect for others.

Maybe that’s the key. It doesn’t really matter how old the folks are whose property is being destroyed. It matters that those who are doing the damage don’t feel any responsibility for it.

Somehow, being drunk is its own reward and absolves the drunk from any responsibility. These are the things that need to be said.

We’ve done a lot of talking as a community about all of this. What haven’t come out yet are many concrete suggestions for action. Here’s something to think about. Those of us of a certain age can make a contribution to the community response to this situation even though we are not directly involved.

What if some of us with all this experience, good and bad, were involved in talking with today’s students about the situations in which they find themselves and the situations in which our fellow community members find themselves?

Not in the sense of threats and punishment, but in the sense of helping them see themselves as mature adults who are, in fact, responsible for what they do. For example, I’d like to talk to some sorority members and other groups of young women about their lives and the dreadful possibilities they may face when they are drunk. Most of the date rapes and assaults in this town involve alcohol, and many involve young women who have been drinking too much.

I’m wondering if some low-key conversations among these young women and those of us who are older (and certainly look like their grandmothers) would be helpful.

We have no power over them, nor will we write recommendations for them after they graduate. It might be easier to talk with us.

Another example: What if some of the men of a certain age talked with their younger brethren in the same fashion?

Many of these men were athletes (and some still are), they were fraternity members, they were into having a good time. They have much in common with the young men who are at that same point in their lives, even though there are obvious differences.

This suggestion is simply put out there to start a discussion of how we as a community can begin to take on the issues of excessive drinking in a manner that might open discussion and allow us to take action, however limited, toward change. Those of us of a certain age need to be involved.

I'll be interested in your response.

Mary M. Dupuis is a community columnist for the Centre Daily Times and can be reached at mjmdupuis@aol.com.She is a volunteer with Case, AAUW and the Mid-State Literacy Council and lives in State College.