One of the things I was doing elsewhere for a few days involved going through newspaper microfilm looking for some info for a friend. I spent several days poring over small-town newspaper screens from 1900 to 1931.
Strange times. I kept getting side-tracked into story sequences that had nothing at all to do with what I was searching for.
I'd never thought about the Mexico borderland being a magnet for rum runners during prohibition, but friends and neighbors, there was a war going on down there during the 1920s and 30s. Guys with cars and trucks full of the devil rum coming across the border down at Hatchita and Antelope Wells, getting in running gunfights with the law, getting themselves killed and killing the chasers.
These were sometimes bigtime crooks, other times just local guys who were doing some bootlegging on the side. Meanwhile, the newspaper was full of opinion by the citizenry, some thinking the guys all needed killing, others really wishing this prohibition thing would spang go away. Arguing about the same kinds of ideas about freedom and government intrusion into private decisions you and I might make about the War on Drugs.
Weird feeling reading those kinds of words and thoughts from seventy-five years ago with only a few nouns altered, but people dying and going to prison in a country at war with itself about freedom of choosing which mistakes a man wants to make, which ones he's willing to have the government make for him.
What hill he's willing to die for.
Then there was all the stuff about the 1918 flu epidemic, who all died this week how many died where....
We have better cars and roads these days, better medicos, a lot more cops and prisons full of prisoners, but not much else has changed. We Americans know a lot about freedom for a people willing to make criminals of people doing just about anything we think a person would be better off not doing.
Such as sipping a beer or martini. And killing the delivery man and bartender.