One of features of the blogging is that it's easy to pretend that nothing you write really matters. It's easy to approach every situation from an aloof, unemotional vantage point that assumes all your readers will be detached as well -- or at least not intimately involved with the topic at hand. That's not always the case, however, as two comments to my earlier post about Gordie Bailey illustrate. I wrote that Mr. Bailey, a Colorado University freshman who died from alcohol poisoning, was responsible for his own death because he was an adult who freely chose to engage in harmful activities to impress his friends. I never really considered that anyone involved in the event could come across my post, but I recently received two comments, one from one of Mr. Bailey's best friends and one from his step-father. They wrote:

First of all, a death of someone as special as Gordie, whom you never had the privaledge of meeting, should be mourned, not criticized in a negative way towards him. If you have any clue how offending it is to someone like me who was one of his best friends to hear some heartless fucking asshole critiquing whether it was his death was his fault or not. It hurts. Who the hell are you to try and call my friend out for drinking too much. I am in a fraternity, I am a pledge, I understand how peer pressure works. Not just peer pressure, but FRATERNITY pressure. Can you say the same? Why don't you get a life and mind your own damn business, if you have a problem feel free to call me out on it.

Posted by: Bradley at October 18, 2004 10:36 PM

I understand your "job" is to be on the unpopular side of an issue to foster conflict, so I take your comments as intended. I admire you sir if you educated your kid(s) before they went off to college to the fatc that they are totally responsible for their actions, even if it is after only 30 days on campus, and they have not yet learned their tolerance for hard alcohol chased with wine finished in 30 minutes if they want to join the "band of brothers" because they typically drank beer, and they are trusting people thinking no one would do them harm as that was the way their high scholl friends treated them. Unfortunately, most of us parents aren't as foresighted as you, and most of us, even today, do not know you can die of alcohol poisoning. You do a great service to us all to blame it on the 18 year old freshman. That way we, society, don't have to change things, except tell our kids that alcohol can kill, not just while driving a car. I wish we could all truly be as smart as you appear to be. Thanks for simplyfying the answer to our problems.

Michael Lanahan

Posted by: michael lanahan at October 28, 2004 03:52 PM

I stand by my earlier position on the matter, but I feel bad about inflicting additional pain on people who loved Mr. Bailey. Was my first post wrong or irreponsible? Was I out of line?

I think alcoholism is a huge problem in our country (and around the world), and it doesn't do anyone any good to shift blame off the drinkers. In the first post I closed by saying, "I'm sorry to say so, Mr. Lanahan, but Gordie's death was meaningless" -- and it was meaningless in the sense that, despite Mr. Lanahan's claims, neither the university nor the fraternity should bear any legal responsibility for Mr. Bailey's death or learn any "lessons". However, if we as a society choose to rightly attribute blame rather than attempt to shift it onto others, perhaps Mr. Bailey's death can serve an an example to other young adults and scare/encourage them to take responsibility for their own lives.



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