ERROL CASTENS: Drunkenness was bad news even B.C. (Before Cars)

Monday's editorial made a strong case against the culture of alcohol that thrives at Ole Miss. Let me add a closer perspective.

Since Friday, you hear the words “drunk driver” and “Scot-free” used a lot. Dustin Dill had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent when his car struck Amie Ewing of Oxford as she was crossing State Highway 6.

A jury acquitted him late Friday afternoon of charges of aggravated DUI. As the law reads, they had no other choice. Eyewitnesses with no dog in the fight insisted even a sober driver would have hit her.

Collective guilt

Had he been stopped by police before he and Ewing crossed paths, Dill would have been just one more in a parade of people who didn't mind piloting a deadly weapon after having intentionally impaired their judgment and reflexes. Because Ewing was in his lane on a foggy night, they became front-page fodder.

Defense attorneys warned against making Dill a scapegoat for the community's collective guilt.

There's plenty to go around.

Police officers acknowledged it was “an accident waiting to happen,” but local officials of every stripe for years turned a blind eye to the danger of cars lining all four shoulders of the highway during ballgames.

All of us who live here and out-of-town visitors share the blame for not speaking up.

Alcohol and algebra

But just as we tolerated dangerous illegal parking “because everybody does it,” we still turn a similar blind eye to drunkenness. The fact that both Dill and Ewing were intoxicated when she stepped into his path illustrates that we lump alcohol abuse and algebra together as equally integral to a college education.

While the Pythagorean Theorem becomes dim memory for most of us, alcohol continues to make fools of too many. At every Ole Miss home football game, the Grove is well-stocked with illegal drink and drunks, and all year long, our drunk tank hosts both professionals and peons.

We get self-righteous about a kid who drove while he was intoxicated. We ignore the pedestrian's part in her own demise, and we close our eyes to all the other tragedies – wrecked homes, broken friendships, destroyed health and trashed careers, among others – that stem from intentional intoxication.

Many of the same folks who'll slur their words on Saturday night will be in church Sunday morning. The Judeo-Christian scriptures they'll read in the pew praise wine as a gift from God but decry drunkenness as an evil.

How many Amie Ewings will it take for us to believe it?

Errol Castens is the Daily Journal's Oxford bureau staff writer. Contact him at 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com