Thursday, August 23, 2007

Michael Vick

Within three years, tops, Vick will be playing again for the NFL. Between then and now, he will go to a lovely retreat in the desert where he'll emerge rehabbed as a member of PETA's board of directors, marry a nice lady veterinarian, and take up dog rescue as a community service. He will appear on Larry King and blabber about his misguided youth and the racists that declared him guilty before his trial, and his new-found sensitivity, and he won't be sporting dreds.

In the meantime, it appears that our rush to judgment was right, after all. People reached the only sane conclusion possible, based on the evidence in the media. What made our conclusion not a collective racist spasm was the deed and the videos, duh.

Georgia's NAACP would do well to issue a revised statement on the Vick sitch, because, excuse me, rote defense--let me repeat that: rote defense--of any popular, wealthy African American athlete regardless of circumstance and evidence (does the name O.J. ring a bell?) does diddly squat to enhance our collective sensibilities about justice, diversity, and personal integrity. It stinks of special pleading, undermines the credibility of the NAACP when it does confront genuine racism, and adds to what I fear is a building store of resentment among many white Americans about an overplayed card.

If he should be diagnosed as a bona fide sociopath--and it's not out of the question--Vick's actions would be more comprehensible but not excusable. He has no excuses. He knows what cruelty means, but he chose to make it a business proposition just the same. His macho quotient evidently insufficiently demonstrated on the football field, he chose to torment dogs to prove how tough he really is.

Vick sure isn't the first guy to equate abuse with manliness, and that's the rest of the discussion we should be having about this matter. Yes, I'm encouraged that it has shed some light on the truth about dog fighting and "pit bulls"--vicious dogs are made by vicious people, not born with a breed imprint--but I hope that, in addition to a special on the spectacular nastiness of dog fighting, we will soon see a CNN special on the connections between men who abuse their dogs and men who abuse their wifes and lovers, because it's unquestionably there. Such a documentary would add significantly to the good that could come out of this hideous episode, but no, I'm not holding my breath.

One last thing: Dog fighting isn't a southern disease, and I'm sick of hearing that it is, so siddown, shuddup, and get a clue. It exists worldwide, and it exists in every US quadrant, social milieu, and demographic. But it's illegal, so it's hidden. Like bootlegging, usually the poor people do it and the rich people get the thrills. (In this case, the rich man did it and got the thrills.) Stop with the specious projections, please, and look at the facts. Recently it was reported that one in five of every Chicago school kids has witnessed dog fighting. Google on Chicago dog fighting. If you think it's a southern thing, you'll definitely be surprised.

Let's put this virulent regional chauvinism out with the rest of the trash.