My family and I went to buy groceries (in preparation for a vacation) at the local Hannaford. I wanted to chip in, so I said I’d cover the shop. The only alcohol was some cooking sherry, but the woman asked for my I.D. It’d expired on my birthday, July 6th. It was July 10th. Not only did the woman say that I couldn’t pay for it, she made a point of ordering me to stand away from the credit card machine. “An expired I.D. is the same as no I.D.,” she’d said.
I could say more than a few words on the logic being employed here, but a person has to do their job. I think this instance is telling of the culture shock that I'm experiencing having just returned from Italy. It made me feel like a criminal, and I have to wonder if we Americans, particularly those in New England, do not often do this to one another. In particular, I think it was the ordering away from the credit card machine that made me fell one-inch tall. It’d left me standing awkwardly away from the cash register while my dad and sister packed the groceries.
A couple weeks later, I was buying wine with my girlfriend and, because her I.D. is from California, a manager had to be retrieved to confirm its validity. The manager said that was everything was fine but that my girlfriend was lucky that she didn't make her sign something to compare signatures. Then, the cashier pointed out that the I.D. would expire in a month and that my girlfriend better go and get it renewed. All this for some wine for dinner.
In the last month I've been in New York City, Boston, Rhone Island, and Maine---moving constantly (today I'm in Portland, Oregon). Three days ago, I went to Whole Foods in Boston, where it is state law that beer, wine, and spirits cannot be purchased at grocery stores. In Europe, having a glass of wine or beer with dinner is natural, and I have to think that many Americans feel this way. But the state law forces these Americans to make two trips for every meal, 1) to the grocery store, and 2) to the "package store." There's got to be a better way. Making a separate trip to the package store is analogous with making a trip to your drug dealer.
Like all blue-blooded Americans, I don’t like being told what to do. Traveling abroad for so long---unchained, homeless, a Nomad, a Wanderer---I gained a new respect for the word “liberty.” What is liberty? What does it mean to you? To discover real American Freedom, I think you have to identify what limits you. Everyone has limits to overcome, as unique as their fingerprints.
Being self-sufficient, for me, is the clearest method for attaining ultimate freedom; the Scott and Helen Nearing Freedom; the Emerson and Thoreau Freedom; The Pilgrim Freedom; the George Washington Freedom; the Hessian Freedom. It is not the Easy Rider Freedom, or the Hunter S. Thompson Freedom, or the Kerouac Freedom. This latter freedom works within society, whereas the former freedom works outside of society. My freedom will disappear when the forests disappear; when advertising campaigns saturate even the smallest towns; when everyone’s one the grid, in the box closed tight.
Society is its own animal. How does the individual remain independent within society? I don’t think it’s possible. Liberty means doing what you want. Shay's Rebellion in 1786 serves as a good example of Americans being Americans. Those good ol’ boys were making whiskey in the woods and when the government said “Pay taxes” they’d loaded their rifles and rebelled. They knew that something pure and simple was being threatened.
I am not really into politics. I don’t like standing on soap boxes and I dislike it even more when someone else does (---sorry, by the way). But today, I think that we see society as our way toward freedom--big cities symbolize the Dream and technology symbolizes the ability to do anything---but what we sacrifice by living among ourselves is our voices:
I am a 28-year-old guy from Maine who wants to cook lobster Newberg. Sell me some damn cooking sherry.
Post Script: Would this have ever happened in Italy? No. Do young people abuse alcohol in Italy the same way that they abuse alcohol in the United States? For the most part, No (in the more wealthy and globally influenced cities in Northern Italy binge drinking is on the rise).
Italians do not view alcohol as a negative thing. As far as I know, Prohibition never took place in all of Italy’s past. Water makes you ill, wine makes you sing! It is to raise spirits and celebrate life. Why is it a crime to celebrate life in America? When did the doling out of the Right to Liberty fall into the hands of cashiers?