May 22, 2009
Crime, Punishment, and Mike Vick
The recent release from prison of NFL quarterback Michael Vick has prompted a firestorm of moralizing that is starting to border on the absurd. Should he be allowed to play in the NFL again? Has he paid his debt to society? Is he reformed and contrite? Is he, as Keith Olbermann might say, "the worst person in the world"?
Well, if you didn't know it already, Mike Vick has come to stand for something much larger than the crimes with which he has been charged and sentenced for. Mike Vick represents one of the most beloved and hated figures in American society over the last 30 years, that of the wealthy black athlete--or perhaps formerly wealthy--whose very presence prompts some of the most aggressive jock ridin' and/or playa hatin' known to man.
On one side there are those who defend any black athlete regardless of what they've done or been accused of doing, because they see everything as a conspiracy. On the other side there are those who are so resentful of the fact that a young black man can be paid lavishly for his skill set that they can't wait to see him fail. It's hard to find middle ground on such a charged issue.
Here's the thing though, Mike Vick was popped for lying about his involvement in a despicable dog fighting ring. He did his time in a federal pen and will now serve out the last two months of his sentence in home confinement. He is, for all intents and purposes, broke. Yet, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still insists that he's not sure if Vick will be reinstated. He wants to be sure that Vick is contrite and has learned from his past errors.
One of the things that drives me crazy is the type of moral judgment being passed by Goodell, though he is far from the only one. I'm sorry Roger, but such decisions are above your pay grade. You have no grounds to pass moral judgment on Mike Vick or anyone else for that matter. While I understand that it is your responsibility to do what is best for the league, you are in no position to judge another man in this regard. Vick made some dumb decisions and paid a substantial price for his decisions. If you don't want him in the NFL then be real about it, but stop with this superior sense of morality, please. It's not as though the NFL is a league full of Buddhist monks, yourself included. Though the Last Poets might suggest that you have a "god complex," you ain't God, Dog; no pun intended.
I am not a dog person. Not at all. Yet many of my friends are dog people and I respect them and their choices. However I find people who want to compare a dog's life to that of a human being a lil' scary. If Mike Vick was staging a battle royal to the death involving humans in his backyard, like those seen in Mandingo (1975), and if he was killing those humans who didn't make the cut then I could understand this public outcry. But he was not killing people, he was killing dogs, and I will never accept that my life and that of a dog is even close to being equal. I'm sorry.
This doesn't mean that I condone dog fighting. Not at all. I can't for the life of me understand how someone could find thrilling the act of watching dogs fight each other? Of course, I can't understand why people hunt other animals for sport either. I also can't understand why some people eat pig feet, but they do. The laws against dog fighting, watching a dogfight, and owning dogs for the purpose of dog fighting, vary from state to state; with the punishment ranging from felonies to misdemeanors. Certain activities are even legal in some states. My point is, there is not a consensus on dog fighting in this country. Had Vick staged his fights in the home state of the most recent former vice president he might have suffered an entirely different fate, for instance.
Dog fighting is thought of as uncivilized and I don't necessarily disagree with this assessment either. Yet because dogs are accepted as pets in our society people seem to have different rules for this animal than they do for others. Fair enough, but I still won't accept that killing dogs should mean that your life is ruined forever as though you murdered another human being. I also won't accept that killing dogs is worst than waterboarding a human being.
I wish we lived in a society where people were as outraged at the activities of war criminals like Bush 43 and Dick "Dark Side" Cheney as they were with the relatively minor-by-comparison illegalities of Mike Vick. Four Trey and Dark Side preemptively invaded a sovereign nation based on a lie, authorized torture, rendition, and illegal wire taps, among so many other unlawful and unethical things, yet Cheney feels so entitled and sure of himself that he's still talkin' greasy with impunity, though he is nothing more than a private citizen now.
This outrage against Vick is misplaced. He served his time and lost his fortune. While I think it was all excessive, nonetheless he has paid his debt to society. Mike Vick is just another distraction to keep your mind off what's real though. Let the man go back to work now and in the meantime let us start holding people accountable who commit crimes of the magnitude that the aforementioned war criminals and their cronies have committed.