Barack Obama has used drugs – he has broken the law. He admits to experimenting with cocaine and marijuana while a young man, and although his candor is refreshing, his drug use has complicated his political aspirations, and political opponents from within his own party have been casting subtle digs about his past.
We expect leadership and moral correctness from our elected officials, and when yet another politician falls from grace, caught in lies about past or present acts, we bemoan the low ethical standards seemingly so prevalent among the Washington elite. Yet why, when we ask the impossible – perfection – are we surprised when imperfect humans (as we all are) prove themselves so?
Looking at the 2007 NIDA released statistics on drug use amongst high school seniors; we can see that although drugs may be illegal, more people than not in our society will try them, at least once. About half of all high school seniors will have used illegal drugs by graduation, and three out of four will have drunk alcohol, under age.
The democratic foundations of this country call for a person of the people, representative of the people, to serve in the best interests of all the people. In reality, we ask for a person who exhibits an impossible perfection of character and even of youthful judgment – a person very unlike most of us! Some may argue that Obama’s youthful indiscretion is not an issue of drugs, but rather of lawfulness; and that whether you can forgive him for his drug use, he did knowingly and willfully break the law. But once again, we all break the law!
We are all essentially guided by two often complimentary laws of action – our moral compass and the statutes of law. We do (mostly) what we perceive to be ethically right based on what we believe, and we follow laws of the state out of a fear of legal repercussions. And as such, when we do not perceive an act to be morally wrong, and when we feel that we are unlikely to face legal sanctions for engaging in it (getting caught) we are somewhat likely to break a law of the state barring this action.
- Running a red light on a deserted country road at 3am is against the law, but as we perceive no moral need to stop, and feel we are unlikely to get caught, most of us will at some point creep through an intersection, without waiting for a green.
- Taking drugs, as an individual act, is illegal, but it is not immoral – the act of using alone harms no one but the user. It may show poor judgment, but as teens, who amongst us can boast of uniformly good judgment?
Obama took drugs, like well more than half of us have. He does not take drugs now, and he has not for decades. Obama broke the law, like all of us have; he did not break any moral laws. What about all the politicians who claim never to have used drugs? Seems unlikely, based on the statistics.
Obama has told the truth. He is human. We should laud him for his courage. He may or may not be the right choice for president, but his past use of drugs should have no bearing on his legitimacy as a candidate today.
Hear Obama’s Views on Drug Policy