Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bonging Shoulds

This may be the Best Recession Ever but when it comes to applying puritanical anachronistic standards to public figures, there is a resurgence of blame to go around. It is important to point out that the media reaction to Michael Phelps indulgence of smoking weed illustrates the very worst societal "shoulds" have to offer.

To be clear, I'm not promoting smoking pot. What I find offensive are the "shoulds" that have followed: He shouldn't have done it, an olympic athlete shouldn't use drugs, he should be a "role model." Because of these "shoulds" Mr. Phelps has now lost his deal with Kellogg's cereal, and has been the subject of humiliating and cruel news reports.

It never ceases to amaze me how society scapegoats the very elements of which it is most afraid. Michael Phelps became a symbol of what WASPS hold sacred in this country: youth, purity, strength, a Disneyfied sense of "goodness." Now that he has been revealed to be just a normal fun-loving flawed 23-year-old he has become a source of fear. He threatens what many Americans hold as "sacred." The message he conveys is, "If I don't have to be perfect then you don't have to be perfect either."

Can't we move past this already? We already have a president who freely admits to marijuana use in his past. Isn't it time for a different dialogue? What if instead of finger pointing and blame we turn it around and ask, "What am I afraid of?" What if instead of scapegoating we take responsibility for our own lives and let others live their own. Perhaps by doing this we can actually have a real discussion about the problematic use of drugs and focus on helping each other create more meaningful and satisfying lives. I'm in, are you?

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