Thursday, February 5, 2009

Double Standards

I don't know about anybody else, but I feel very bad for Michael Phelps. Okay, so he did a stupid thing. He smoked some dope. Not smart. But he also achieved an unprecedented eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Michael Phelps is aware of the fact that he is a role model for younger kids, and he did a bad thing. Phelps' reputation may now be tarnished beyond repair. Sponsors who had rushed to sign him up are now dropping him like a hot roach clip.

I would more concerned about the fact that in 2004 he pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Why didn't that affect his chances of competing in the Olympics? Because we still have double standards about drugs and alcohol. Thousands of people die in car accidents in Canada and the US each year, and one-half of those deaths are alcohol related.

The physical and social effects of alcoholism are devastating, but alcohol is legal and society shows that by drinking, you will be viewed as glamorous and sophisticated.

Under the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations, marijuana is legal in Canada for medical purposes. However, it's strictly regulated and it's only for severely ill people, and that obviously does not apply to someone like Michael Phelps.

Maybe I am a too liberal about these things, but I think folks need to rethink the knee-jerk reaction to a young man behaving like, well, a young man. The Americans just elected a new President of the United States, the top job in the world, as it were, and he admitted to using drugs when he was a young man. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though," he says.

Oh, good. No smack.

I'm not a teetotaller, but I think we need to get over the double standard that booze is okay, and marijuana is not. And I really think we need to stop expecting other folks to be super-human. We are all human. There but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

38 comments:

Dixie's Whimsey said...

I couldn't care less if he smoked pot... but his sponsors bought that wholesome All-American boy image... and the photos of him smoking pot doesn't fit into that image...

I think we idolize sports figures, and actors, and even politicians... I think our admirations are misplaced and unrealistic. When people reveal themselves to be "human", we knock them off the pedestal.

There's more going on here than drugs vs. alcohol... and I agree with you that one is no more evil than the other.

Dixie

Patty Mooney said...

I think we should also revisit the idea of using hemp as a product that could revitalize our paper, fuel and plastics industries. I wrote a blog about it myself a few days ago, if you are interested. I mean, hemp used to be an everyday product - rope, cloth, ingredient for paints and varnishes, etc. It was demonized by men who turned out to be complete carpetbaggers (William Randolph Hearst, DuPont, Harry Anslinger). Look where our economy is now.

nomore said...

I agree all, I'm not a teetotaller too, but I'v never marijuana yet........so i could be only a commoner guess.

MadredeEzekiel said...

Michael Phelps and I live maybe 20 minutes away from one another. It's a well known fact around here that though he's a great athlete, he really lacks integrity; one minute everyone is proud he's from our state, and the next he's in the tabloids for DWI, smoking pot, or he's spotted very publicly cheating on his girlfriend.

So, I might say that the public's reaction is blown out of proportion simply because he's famous. However, he's not as cool of a guy as he used to be- the fame has definitely gotten to his head.

Deedee said...

Quite right, Jo. Hemp is no better or worse than alcohol or any other "legal" drug. We all need to get over the "evil" image - Many, many plants have medicinal and/or mind-altering properties, for better or worse. It is what it is. Dumb of him though, being in the spotlight as he is, to jeopardize his sponsorship opportunities.

Preacherboy Reborn said...

It's a shame that this has come out about him. Doubtless this is how he will be remembered. I feel the same about the comparison between pot and tobacco. Pot undoubtedly carries the greater stigma. Though tobacco is one of the few industries that has to , market negatively about itself by government order. That however, doesn't stop the government from taking part of the profits in taxes. Oh the world we live in...

Mary Ellen said...

Phelps did what many kids his age are doing or have done, he's making bad decisions. He may have accomplished an amazing feat at his young age, but he still hasn't reached full maturity.

Unfortunately, with drugs AND alcohol, someone else can get hurt if it involves drinking/drugs and driving or any other activity such as snowmobiling, skiing, swimming, boating, etc.

Phelps has learned the hard way that to be a public figure, especially an athlete, you have to be mature enough to set a good example. I'm sure he signed a contract for all those sponsors who hired him to sell their wares that he will not use drugs or be caught in any scandal, if he does, they can terminate his contract. He read it...he signed it...and now he's paying the price for not following it.

I'm not sure if I feel sorry for him, I just hope that he takes this and learns from it---that's all we can ask of young people, no?

JR's Thumbprints said...

If I had multi-million dollar endorsements, the decision to smoke from a bong woud actually be a "non-decision," a "no brainer." I guess Phelps's brain, perhaps, is a bit too waterlogged.

Poutalicious said...

You have pointed out another reason why I'm not enthralled with Obama; his nonchalant attitude about his prior drug use.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a double standard here. Whether he used alcohol or drugs, and he has used both and has been "caught" using both, he has had to defend himself. Where's the double standard?

I don't think it's an argument over whether one drug is more accepted than another. Yes, Obama has used drugs and admitted to it. It is also said he may stimulate the wine industry in the US because he is the first president in 8 years to drink alcohol. Yay! Right?

I merely feel sorry for Michael Phelps too, because he is so young and achieved so much and now EVERYTHING he does will be captured on a cell phone camera, warts and all, that's the worst part

soapwish said...

I don’t know Michael Phelps, so I have no idea about his integrity, but I do know that if I was a multi-millionaire and a world champion (at anything) when I was 23 years old I would have done a lot of embarrassingly stupid things, most likely caught on film. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would have been the case for several years thereafter as well.

Wasabi Sandwich said...

You can tell the dude smoke pot by the way he speaks. He be like swimming in the bahamas and having a joint at the same time.

Carolyn said...

I happened on your blog from Mrs. Nesbitt's Place and I am so glad I did. Your posts are so great. Thank you for being willing to share. Smiles

Firefly said...

I agree with you that booze is just as bad. Alcahol consumption should also be under the spotlight more and driving under the influence should carry much bigger fines and punishment. As for Phelps. He should have realised that being a superstar in the sporlight that being caught smoking pot will create some kind of reaction.

Sally's World said...

I understand your point totally, but as adults we can rationalise and look back on our own lives. And on the whole it may seem a little trivial, especially compared to drink driving.

But kids are looking up to him, my 15 year old is learning about drugs and their affects in school after seeing the report, made comment about him throwing it all away for a bit of pot. So it’s not just about maturity. If you’re in the public eye and know you are going to be a role model for kids then you have a duty to those kids. With the success, fame, money comes responsibility, huge responsibility.

He is an incredibly athlete, so I hope he can do something to turn it around.

Leah Fry said...

I'll just reiterate what I have been saying for 40 years: legalize it.

Anonymous said...

It is illegal to possess marijuana, so he did break a law.Alcohol is not illegal, if consumed properly. Until it is legal,using it is unlawful, whether you think it is an unjust law, or not. Winning in the Olympics has become lure to those in certain sports to gain wealth and fame and the games were originally and supposedly about fellowship and good sportsmanship. I wish this young man the best, and hope he can hold up his head and "man up" and go on. He looks so distressed in the news. It's not the end of the world. Good wishes to him. Dee

Anonymous said...

It is illegal to possess marijuana, so he did break a law.Alcohol is not illegal, if consumed properly. Until it is legal,using it is unlawful, whether you think it is an unjust law, or not. Winning in the Olympics has become lure to those in certain sports to gain wealth and fame and the games were originally and supposedly about fellowship and good sportsmanship. I wish this young man the best, and hope he can hold up his head and "man up" and go on. He looks so distressed in the news. It's not the end of the world. Good wishes to him. Dee

expressionist said...

Well said Dixie's Whimsey!
If I may throw in my own angle-

I think that we as society encourage the selection of role models and "heros" so as to help reinforce the image of society.

It's almost a form of marketing or propaganda : sending an image of what is acceptable, what is expected of us, what we should aspire to become. And when the person isn't perfect - their faults serve as yet another reminder of what is or isn't acceptable.

In the end, we understand that people shouldn't be DIFFERENT. Acheive great things,yes, but be like every one else.

Personnally, I want my children to have role models - yet learn that we are all different AND Heros in our own way.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well, it's no secret that many athletes do marijuana.
Oddly, it seems to go with the territory.
I still hink Michael Phelps is superhuman though. Told by teachers all his life he would never amount to anything. Dyslexic, a cripple. Well. There you go.

But double standards.
I smoke and I feel like a criminal, and any number of little old ladies will tell me to butt out at the bus stop. How this encourages petty tyrannies!

Flashback to maybe 1943: "Young man, why aren't you in uniform?"
"Well, I had been, and if it wasn't for your witches brew of seventy pills a day, you'd be in uniform and a smoker too...and I got twenty years on you."
How easily we are turned into little tattle-tale commies in this land of the politiclly correct.

Hey, Obama smokes, though he says he is trying to quit.
Maybe there's hope. :)

bearbear said...

I have a TWO YEAR OLD granddaughter who knows who Michael Phelps is and what he's about. When she takes a bath, she pretends to swim like Michael Phelps. He's a household name. He's just still a little immature, in my opinion, to realize how these things will influence younger kids as a role model.

Jo said...

Hello, everyone, and thank you for all your wonderful, thoughtful comments. I don't mean my post to sound as if I am condoning what Michael Phelps did, because I am not. What I mean to say is that, in my opinion, there is not a person on earth who can really live up to being "superhuman". Our role models have feet of clay too, and we should cut them some slack whenever they behave as mere mortals --- which they are. Michael Phelps is just a young man who overcame overhwelming odds to become a strong athlete. He is just a human being, and I feel terrible for him that he got caught at being human.

Sammi said...

It's ridiculous. We've all done something stupid in our lives, the kid is in his 20s for God's sake he's bound to make a mistake. I'm not saying we've all smoked pot, but we've all done things we're not proud of, and not all of us get punished for it because we're not famous!

Mary Ellen said...

Jo- I know where you are coming from, and yes...there are no super human beings.

My guess is, he'll get his lawyer to strike some deals for him where he will do ads against doing drugs or drinking. That may save his career, if he's lucky. Not everyone gets a second chance, maybe he will. If he plans on swimming in the next Olympics, you can bet that he will be monitored constantly with drug tests...and if he wins, there will be many who will say that he used enhancement drugs to do it. If he loses, there will plenty more who will say it's because he used drugs. It's a lose/lose situation for him in his future as an athlete. THAT is a very sad thing, indeed. :-(

Anonymous said...

I think marijuana should be legalized and then taxed, just like alcohol. In fact, I believe it to be much less harmful than alcohol. My professor of abnormal psychology in college said he didn't even know why it was lobbed in with all the other drugs, because it doesn't affect the brain in the same way. Alcohol is physically addicting, pot is not. You can become emotionally dependent, but not physically addicted. How many lives have been ruined or lost to drinking? How many families have been destroyed by drinking? You don't hear the same statistics for pot. Just saying.

Starlene said...

Amen Jo! Apparently the pot didn't keep him from winning...GOLD MEDALS. The only thing that is hindering his career right now are the people judging him. Take them away and he appears to be fine. I know from experience that I'm not one of those people that can smoke pot and still be productive. I just can't, so I don't do it. But I don't claim to be everyone either. For some people it works differently and he's apparently one of them. He has my sympathies.

fathorse said...

HERE HERE!

I was immensely impressed that obama just up and said it - yes I've done drugs. Who hasn't? I don't any more. End of. It's all about honesty, people.

Alcohol flows so freely in Britain. I don't believe strict measures or restrictions are always the best cure, but it seemed absolutely ridiculous to me that - at a time when we are all nervous about the impact of binge-drinking and obesity - the government brought in 24hour licensing laws. Then they boosted weed up a grade, against popular medical advice. All weed needs is a bit of civilisation - to be rescued from the underworld.

lovelyprism said...

Today on Fox News, the newscaster called this "The bong hit seen around the world." LOL! Poor kid lives under a microscope like all other celebrities. Maybe we should be more concerned with the jobs they do and the way they entertain us than what they do in their private lives? Who among us would want our lives exposed for all the world to see? Not me!

TheChicGeek said...

"Oh, good. No smack." lol
Perfect! You've hit it right on the head, as always.
Have a Happy Day, Jo!

Just Breathe said...

Live by the media, die by the media. He knows he is followed by cameras everywhere he goes. If he wanted a toke he should have done it in the privacy of his bedroom with the blinds drawn! As for the DUI, shame on him! I have zero tolerance for such blatant disregard for other's safety! He is FORTUNATE he did not harm anyone. None of this though, says he isn't a good athlete, just a young man making bad choices. . .over and over and over again.

leilani said...

LOl JR!!!! i was thinkin the same thing... mega millions right down the drain !!!

flowrgirl1 said...

I agree with you all the way. Alcohol kills all the time. Marijauna???? You are much more likely to get pulled over for going to slow behind the wheel then to fast on pot.

Its way out of proportion of reality.

A Beautiful Mind said...

Thank you so much for saying this.

Anonymous said...

Jo, the pot today is not the same pot as the '70's or even '80's. It is much more potent, and HELLO it is against the law PERIOD.

And who's stupid enough to smoke pot, when sometimes it's dipped in formaldehyde, left over meth chemicals, or laced with other drugs?

I know many people that turned into crack heads and they used to just smoke pot in their 20's.

You say you aren't, but it sure sounds like you are condoning his pot smoking!

Carla said...

My sentiments exactly! I've never smoked pot because I'm a non-smoker. I can't imagine smoking anything. I live a quiet, conservative life...but I am a liberal thinker. And, in my opinion, marijuana use should be legal. Unfortunately, it is still illegal, so Michael Phelps did a dumb thing.

tangobaby said...

Great post and some very thoughtful commenters too. I also wrote a post about this, and I guess I'm just so tired of the media making a circus out of everything that's not truly important that really affected me.

He's a kid. Who hasn't made a mistake and why does this warrant such a huge amount of media exposure? I see stories like this and all I can assume is the we're being distracted from very important things to think about.

The Promiscuous Reader said...

Those who are ready to jump on Obama for his youthful drug use should remember that George W. Bush also used drugs -- including alcohol and "a little blow when [he] could afford it," which for a rich kid like him meant any time he felt like it. I know, Bush claimed to have left all that behind, though it seems clear enough that he took up the bottle again with a vengeance after he got to the White House. For what it's worth, Obama's experience with cocaine also apparently is in the past.

The reaction to Phelps is interesting, and I think Dixie's Whimsey put her finger on it: it's a matter of how much money these big corporations can make off him. Why isn't the commercialization of sport of more concern to those who see it as a holy calling?

As for the 'role model' thing, Naomi Klein (your fellow Canadian, Jo -- have you read her?) wrote a great piece a few years ago about an "iconic" photograph of an American Marine who'd participated in the massacres at Fallujah in Iraq, and was relaxing with a cigarette. The media loved him, but a lot of people were bothered as Klein reports: "'Lots of children, particularly boys, play "army" and like to imitate this young man. The clear message of the photo is that the way to relax after a battle is with a cigarette,' wrote Daniel Maloney in a scolding letter to the Houston Chronicle. ... Yes, that's right: Letter-writers from across the nation are united in their outrage--not that the steely-eyed smoking soldier makes mass killing look cool but that the laudable act of mass killing makes the grave crime of smoking look cool. It reminds me of the joke about the Hasidic rabbi who says all sexual positions are acceptable except for one: standing up, 'because that could lead to dancing.'"

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