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Actor Robert Downey Jr. has been arrested for drug use again.
He could get a four-year prison sentence, so it’s obvious he didn’t take the drugs for pleasure. He took them because he’s an addict. They aren’t a means of entertainment for him; they’re a curse.
The same appears to be true of Darryl Strawberry — who was booted out of Major League Baseball because he couldn’t stay off drugs. He is an addict — not a person who simply refused to “say no.”
In any discussion of the Downey and Strawberry cases, one point seems to be overlooked: Even though both are addicts, they’re quite able to perform their jobs properly.
Drugs haven’t kept Downey from showing up for work, from cooperating with his fellow workers, or from acting well enough to win numerous awards. And Darryl Strawberry managed to hit home runs even while plagued with drug problems.
If these people can function so well, why do they get hustled off to jail?
They’re already living in private hells — unable to shake the drug habit. Once a person is addicted, giving up drugs is far harder than giving up smoking or fatty foods. There are very few examples of addicts shaking the habit and remaining clean ever after.
So what is gained by having the police hound them?
The Downey and Strawberry cases should remind us that prior to the drug laws many addicts were productive members of society. They bought morphine, opium, or heroin at the local pharmacy, showed up for work every day and lived otherwise normal lives.
The difference between them and today’s “junkies” is that earlier addicts lived in a society where drugs were legal. They didn’t buy from black-market criminals who laced drugs with unknown substances. And they didn’t have to steal to pay astronomical prices for black-market drugs. They bought safe, inexpensive drugs marketed by well-known companies. They could survive and prosper.
But today’s addicts devote enormous amounts of time, money and attention to acquiring drugs, live in fear of being caught and sometimes die from taking bad drugs.
We’re told we must make examples of people like Downey and Strawberry because they’re “role models.”
But I don’t understand why actors or ballplayers must be held to such a high standard.
After all, what kind of role model is George W. Bush? He boozed it up, was arrested for drunk driving, apparently did drugs and became president of the United States. Now he puts people in prison for five or 50 years for doing what he did — and he gets to call himself “compassionate.”
What kind of role model was Bill Clinton? He admits smoking marijuana, but he signed laws increasing the prison terms for people who do what he did.
What kind of role model was Ronald Reagan? He claimed to be for the Constitution, but decided the Fourth and Fifth Amendments were unnecessary. He stepped up the Drug War, imposed new intrusions on your privacy, signed oppressive mandatory sentencing laws, and instituted asset-forfeiture programs that can take your property without accusing you of a crime.
Anyone concerned about role models ought to take a closer look at the people they hold up as heroes — and leave Robert Downey and Darryl Strawberry alone to work out their problems.
What’s the point?
Tell me whose life is better because of the drug laws — other than black-market drug dealers, politicians and law-enforcement agencies that get to steal your property.
We don’t make life easier for the children who get harassed by drug dealers at school, or who die in drive-by shootings when criminal gangs fight over drug territories.
We don’t provide better role models when we disgrace honest actors and ballplayers while honoring hypocritical politicians.
And we don’t turn addicts into better people by throwing them in prison.
Or would George W. Bush and Bill Clinton be better people today if, for their “youthful indiscretions,” they had spent 10 years in prison?