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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Free beer: the political movement

May 30, 2001

There were women in beautiful gowns.

There were men in their best suits.

A band played jazz standards in an elegant ballroom.

Yes, it was a beautiful night, but it didn't turn magical until two special words started circulating around the room:

"Free beer."

Nothing can make many a man happier than those two wondrous words. Those two syllables can make a slow man fast, make a lazy man spry, make a lame man skip to the lou, and then to the bar for that third beer after that trip to the lou. The two words "free beer" bring tears to many a man's eyes, moisture that apparently moves up from the man's suddenly parched mouth.

Men's ears prick up to "free beer" like a Great Dane's ears when he hears, "Time to eat."

Free Nelson Mandela? It proved to be a fine idea indeed.

Free beer? Undeniably a winning plan from the start.

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"Honey," a husband will say, "I don't want to go to your aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. I hate going to your family parties. Your family is depressing, and your cousin Trudy always makes the DJ play ‘Electric Slide' and you know that and all other line dancing makes me homicidal."

"There will be free beer," the wife will say.

"Let me comb my hair," the husband will respond.

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal? I don't know. He was convicted of killing a cop, even though he and his supporters say it was a setup. It's really a big controversy.

Free beer? No controversy there. It's a platform that always will get majority support.

Political party No. 1 promises new schools, new highways, lower gas prices, teen-agers not talking back to parents any longer and huge tax refund checks coming in fewer than 60 days.

Political party No. 2 promises free beer.

Political party No. 2 wins in a landslide. Voter turnout is never better.

Free James Brown? It was certainly a worthy movement, one to free a true American hero.

Free beer? An even stronger movement, and you can dance to it.

Want to put an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland? Promise both sides free beer for life if they quit their damn fighting. Free beer inserted into the equation would mean the killing would come to an immediate stop. Heck, within four to six hours Protestant and Catholic Irish men would be dancing together in the streets, which, if you think about it, might not be a pretty sight. Still, it would stop the killing, which would be good no matter the dance partners.

I am not implying the Irish like their beer any more than anyone else. Nor am I implying they like their beer any less than anyone else. Nor am I implying free beer is a flawless idea. My point is free beer has a cross-cultural, multinational appeal.

Free love? It had its run 30 years ago and may have been good for some, although it seems a bit dangerous now.

Free beer? It never goes out of style.

Years ago I was a groomsman in a wedding in a large Southern city. Shortly after we arrived in town we found out while the rest of the wedding guests had been set up with lodging in an elegant riverfront hotel, the groomsmen were set up in a roadside motel where a lot of young women lodgers were "just hitchhiking, officer."

At the rehearsal dinner most of the party was seated in a chandeliered ballroom in the family mansion, where the guests were served a catered gourmet dinner. The groomsmen, rumored to bewild, we guessed, were closed off behind a door in a den, where they were served four buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I told the rest of the groomsmen and dates they should be grateful because we had been given a choice between buckets of extra crispy and original recipe.

Not that we were ignored that night. The stepfather of the bride did come into the den to make passes at a couple of the groomsmen's girlfriends.

The insults of the fine young groomsmen continued throughout the weekend of wedding festivities, but no one left for one reason, and by this point you know what that is:

Free beer.

Free Tibet? Richard Gere supports it fervently and the Dalai Lama seems like a genuinely fine man, although anything we do in regard to Tibet could strain our already strained relations with mainland China.

Free beer? No strained relations there, although there may be a strained hamstring or two in the race to the keg.

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