Knowing Your Limits

Cinco de Mayo was the day I learned my limit.  The moment I first discovered when (read: at what time in the evening) to stop drinking.

The details of the night to which I refer are not terribly important.  Suffice it to say that the combined ingestion of beer, vodka, orange juice, tobacco, fruit punch, Sprite and one hour is not quite as much fun as it sounds, and that to an unassuming college freshman, certain things cannot be learned from books—they can only be verified through experience.

I say this Cinco de Mayo party was when I reached my “limit,” although that is perhaps not quite the word for it.  In the world of boozing, the concept of a personal ceiling is generally associated with a number—how many drinks one can consume before bad things happen—and on this night I had no earthly idea how much liquid courage I had poured down my gullet until it began to reverse direction, at which point the only calculation that interested me was the number of paces to the nearest trashcan.

Then again, this rather handsomely illustrates the real problem:  You don’t realize you have gone too far until you have gone too far.  It is the nature of alcohol to impair your ability to think and behave rationally, and while it is certainly feasible to control yourself while imbibing, the odds are against you and, in truth, the danger of spiraling out of control is part of the fun.

With experience, of course, one does acquire a real sense of what one can handle—and, with it, what one cannot—and can use that wisdom to behave in a more informed, intelligent manner thenceforth.

Would that our leaders in the nation’s capital possess the growth potential and self-discipline equal to that of the average teenage drunk.

Following the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were murdered, most Americans seemed to have reached their limit for how many mass shootings they were willing to tolerate before Congress intervened—not necessarily through any particular piece of legislation, but just by doing something.

The poll numbers suggested as much, with nine in ten respondents asserting that requiring more robust background checks for gun purchases was a reasonable response to the random acts of gun violence that have become a wee bit too common in recent years.

Yet the U.S. Senate nonetheless rejected a bill that would have effected such changes in the ways firearms could be amassed, and Wayne LaPierre, the cartoon Batman villain in charge of the National Rifle Association, continues to make public pro-gun declarations of such resolute bluster that the very concept of going too far seems to have flown directly over his head.

Can we blame him?  So long as LaPierre and his anti-regulation fellow travelers continue to get exactly what they want, what reason do they have to stop demanding that America’s gun laws be made no tighter than they currently are, and to continue to think they can get away with it?  They can still see straight and aren’t completely slurring their sentences, so why not unscrew another bottle of whiskey?

Then again, the entire federal government resembles nothing so much as a frat house bursting with those who never seem to connect their massive hangovers to their activities the previous night (perhaps because they can’t remember them).  Rather than recognizing where their collective competency ends and working within those boundaries, our nation’s lawmakers perennially attempt to push the envelope.

There are folks such as John McCain, whose personal take away from our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq is that there is no such thing as too many U.S. footprints in the Middle East—as evidenced by McCain’s current advocacy for an active American role in Syria.  One would think the last 12 years of U.S. foreign policy would lead one in the opposite direction—that if moral questions did not enter into the equation, the prospect of eventually running out of soldiers and money would—but why let some uncomfortable facts get in the way of a perfectly good ideology?

This might naturally lead us into a review of the ways Washington, D.C., conducts its spending habits overall, but our time and patience have their limits, too.

Whatever the issue, be it personal or international, the ideal is to allow the intellect to kick in, accept that you are neither invincible nor infallible, and refrain from behaving as if you were.  One can wake up from only so many hangovers before one fails to wake up at all.

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