FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Heroes are Human Beings Too

by JASON FLOM And ANTHONY PAPA

Thousands of stories across the country have captured the plight of Michael Phelps and his recent bong incident. Phelps has apologized for his youthful indiscretion. It seems that his apology was accepted by most Americans including the corporate sponsors that gave Phelps lucrative contracts for his endorsements.

Only one spoiler is making noise about the incident. Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County has said that he will charge Phelps with a crime if he determines he smoked marijuana. Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in South Carolina is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine.

Coincidently the Phelps story broke the same day that Santonio Holmes became MVP of Super Bowl XLII. Let’s put this in context. Michael Phelps and Santonio Holmes are two superstar athletes involved in different sports but they share a common connection. Phelps starred in Olympics, winning an astounding 14 gold medals, a feat unmatched by any other. Holmes earned honors during last weeks Super Bowl when, in dramatic fashion, he caught the winning touchdown in the closing seconds.

Both athletes felt the thrill of victory in sports. They’ve also had to address their drug use in the press. It seems like heroics are not enough to cancel out the governments zero tolerance policy when it comes to recreational drug use.

Maybe both of these athletes should have known better. But even our greatest sports heroes are human beings who make mistakes. Both Phelps and Holmes are no different than millions of other Americans. Like Phelps and Holmes, millions of Americans use marijuana, either recreationally or medically.

Let’s be honest. Olympic gold medals and bong hits don’t mix well with mainstream America. Michael Phelps should know this. But maybe because he is a normal 23 year-old, he forgot. Both Phelps and Holmes remind us that even heroes can make poor choices that cause them to run afoul of the law.

Holmes has come a long way since his arrest in 2008 for the possession of a small amount of marijuana. He was caught with three marijuana-filled cigars in his car. Holmes received a one-game suspension and was allowed to continue the season without further punitive action. Holmes was able to overcome this mid-season stumble and recover to be the hero of the Steelers’ record sixth Super Bowl title. Holmes received a second chance to make amends for his mistake. He made the most of it in grand fashion.

But when you’re dealing with a government that is hell-bent on continuing an unwinnable war on drugs, it has little regard for mistakes. Take the case of Mitchell Lawrence, an 18 year-old Massachusetts teen, who was sentenced in 2006 to two years in prison for possession of a single marijuana joint. Lawrence received this rather severe punishment at the hands of an over-zealous prosecutor that had little regard for the teenager’s youthful indiscretions. His life is forever ruined by the stigma of the arrest.

People who use drugs and people who wrestle with addiction are routinely demonized by the so-called moral majority. Drug use is considered a moral failing. This is wrong. Many people struggle with addiction and it should be addressed in a medical context, not a criminal, punitive one.

And for every person who struggles with drugs and drug addiction, there are millions of others who use drugs recreationally, and responsibly. Phelps and Holmes are two high-profile examples of people who use drugs recreationally and suffer no adverse effects – other than exposing themselves to criminal sanctions due to drug prohibition. Recreational drug use should not be used to demonize individuals. While Phelps and Holmes – tops in their respective sports – may not be destitute and strung out over their drug use, they face ridicule and scorn from Americans who have been convinced that drug use equals paralyzing addiction and ruin.

The moral majority might try to follow Sheriff Lott’s lead and call for Phelps’ head. One thing is for certain. Michael Phelps is still a hero to America and his career should not go up in smoke because of a single mistake. Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl heroics are a testament to this.

Jason Flom is President of Lava Records.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

More articles by:

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

February 22, 2018
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail