Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Two Rights Don't Make a Bong
Quick rant for you today, my dedicated reader about a subject that has me boiling with rage like a geyser moments before the inevitable explosive climax. A bit of national news has me so irked and being that the event took place in Columbia, a more localized anger has been induced as well. I speak of the Phelps bong case, which has taken up much of the valuable minutes ESPN could have spent talking about Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Terrell Owens or any of the other "role models" they choose to focus most of their airtime upon not to mention scintillating hours the "news channels" could have used to show us the interior design plans Michelle Obama has regarding the White House. If any of you have managed to avoid seeing anything about this debacle please let me know the directions to the planet you currently occupy so I can come join you.
The whole event for me has shown how dysfunctional we are as a society. There is no discussion in any of these reports about whether marijuana should even be illegal. I could get wrapped up in talking about the foolhardiness of our drug laws for several pages, but I recommend you read the case Eric Schlosser makes in "Reefer Madness" or any of many well-argued, lucid attacks on our current policy available on-line or in your local bookstore. I did a speech on the subject in my rhetoric class a few years back and finding information on the subject was not at all difficult. I am not even much of a fan of the green, having tried the stuff on a few occasions and never growing enamored of the buzz or taste. I am still a beer man through and through.
Back to my main point we go! The mainstream media reported the story as if one should just assume that what Michael Phelps did was wrong. He made his apologies and moved on - but we as Americans missed a teachable moment. Why is what he did such a big deal? No one mentioned a single reason - the media just took for granted that since what he did is illegal than it is necessarily wrong. The media's defenders will say their job is just to report the facts, not to editorialize - but you can report things in a fashion that makes people more likely to question the facts. I don't believe that was done in any of the pieces I saw dealing with the illicit Billy Bong Thorton and its terrible cargo.
Clearly the sheriff wanted to have a high-profile case, to make an example of someone famous. Since Snoop Dogg and Seth Rogan were too smart to ever consider entering the state of South Carolina, a poor swimmer with some judgment issues would have to take their place as the celebrity blazer. The motives of the police were not questioned, however, in any of the articles I read about the case. See the Duke Lacrosse case if you are somehow naive about the motivations of some of our nation's men in blue. I have good and honest friends who are involved in law enforcement and they freely admit that marijuana is not considered a high priority most of the time.
On the other hand, I know from my own experiences that newspaper reporters are usually hamstrung by their superiors and law enforcement is bound to uphold the laws of our nation, even if their approach is questionable at times. No these are just members of society responding to the status quo, playing their part in a script that has already been written.
A similar circumstance played a part in my decision to give up the idea of becoming a teacher. A student in my psychology class asked me point blank why smoking marijuana is wrong. I realized that I had no answer for him. At least one that wouldn't lead to my dismissal by the end of the school day. There was no way I could sleep at night leaving my opinion of the truth unsaid.