Tilting at Windmills

January/February 2012 Moonshine morality

By Charles Peters

The recent PBS series on prohibition was at once frightening and reassuring: scary when it revealed that a really bad constitutional amendment could get passed by thirty- six state legislatures in little more than one year; comforting in that the repeal got through thirty-six legislatures in less than a year.

The point that resonated the most for me was one about the effect prohibition had on the Christianity of those who lived through it—the point resonated because I had seen this effect at work in my father and his friends. It was hard to be selfrighteous about one’s religious beliefs and moral convictions when you had repeatedly violated the law to patronize your bootlegger—which my father did after picking me up from Sunday school. We would drive up a dusty country road into the hills, where his “supplier” resided.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.