The problem started soon after people started messing around with barley and other grains. Sure, they were an interesting crop that you could make a lot of with this “plow” thingy, but what could you do with it? You can imagine the debate running on and on, with the Sumerians that were pro-grain being called all kids of names by the anti-grain faction of Sumeria. Somewhere along the line, some of this grain rotted in bowl of water in a very careful kind of way and soon there was something everyone could agree on – it was a tasty and good thing, and not just because it was alcoholic. The whole debate got a lot more mellow after a few bowls full of it were downed, and everything was allright.
That’s about how making beer was the first act of civilization.
Perhaps it didn’t go down just like that, but it was something similar. The Sumerians didn’t just cultivate grain because they could – they had already found that they could preserve it in jars long after the harvest was over in a liquid that just seemed to get better with time. Way better, in fact. And it certainly got better with each bowlful. Before long, they were cultivated vast areas under the plow and building cities in the middle of the irrigated acres of barley.
After Obama stupidly waded into an overgrown domestic dispute, he invited to the White House the two sides, Gates and Crowley, to sit down and have a beer. The idea was that this is how civilized, intelligent people settle disputes. Nevermind the number of arguments we’ve all seen started by alcohol, beer has a calming effect when people are already a bit hot over things that clearly went way past their own control. After all, it’s where this thing called “civilization” got its start.
I’ve had the pleasure of a few conversations with people less pale than I am about the subject of race, and most of them took place over a beer or two or more. It’s about the ritual of the process as much as the beverage, which is why Obama’s choice of Bud Light isn’t all that important – it’s not my problem that he doesn’t like beer.
When this whole thing got way overblown in the media, the only sensible and civilized thing to do was to sit down and have a beer about it. Amazing things can happen when people give themselves up to the idea that no matter what your dispute is, downing a pint of your fave foam with someone is an act of contrition, brotherhood, or at the very least tolerance. We’re all just people, and we might agree to disagree on many things – but we can all enjoy a cold one.
In the end, the event was just another White House photo-op in many ways. But what it said to everyone is that there are ways of getting past all the terrible ghosts that have been haunting us since this nation first declared it independence. We may not all agree on everything, but that’s not important. We’re all people. We know enough to be civil and decent to each other.
If it takes some time over a few beers to make that clear, then it’s time well spent. In fact, there’s no better use of time than to spend it getting to know someone you have a serious disagreement with because they might just change your mind on a thing or two. I’ll bet a lot of Sumerians were convinced of that after all that grain produced something as cool as beer.