02 September 2009

On Michael Vick

I've got a lot going on in my life. I've decided to transition my career path, I've decided to start applying to grad schools for Fall 2010 admission, I've been dating for the first time in three years (I mean, those three dates in the past three years really weren't meaningful attempts). The schools that I'm applying to are not in Philly, which means that I will be moving in less than a year (unless all three schools reject me), so I'm already looking around at my books and thinking about a massive yard/book sale.

So given the upcoming stress in my life (most of it eustress, but stress nonetheless), it makes total sense that some of my most recent therapy session was centred around none other than Michael Vick.

The issue of Vick has been weighing heavily on my mind. I am known for being a completely leftist, bleeding-heart liberal. I took a lot of heat on my blog from total strangers for defending Ben Appleby, a death row inmate (and high school friend of mine). I won't go into that issue again on this blog post, but you can about it here. What I've been turning over (and over and over) in my head is how I can go to the mat over cases like Ben, but I've felt so ready to nail Vick's ass to the wall. I've felt so ready to join the Vick protests and refer to his return to the NFL with derision.

But where was my compassion? I've had so much compassion for Ben and other criminals. I've always tried to focus on society's responsibility (which I do NOT believe takes away from an individual's responsibility) to a person, whether in rehabilitation, assistance, fostering community, etc.

But with Vick, it's been different. And it's been bothering me. Is it because he hurt defenceless animals who had no voice? Is it because I knew Ben but didn't Vick? But I've also defended and advocated for others with whom I had no personal connection, so that didn't make sense. And this is why I went to my therapist with it.

And she helped me untangle it. It's still a little hazy for me, and I'm not sure why this is so difficult for me to wrap my head around. I'm hoping that my blogging about it and getting some feedback, it'll help me. But basically, here's how Nancy broke it down:

With Ben, if one believes that he committed the crimes for which he is in prison (he had told me he didn't, but testified in court that he did), then justice is being served. The injustice and compassion comes in because it is my belief that society failed Ben in a major way and that had society NOT failed him, he wouldn't be there in the first place. At one point as a young adult, Ben DID ask (in court, no less) for help and none was given to him.

With Vick, he absolutely committed the crimes (he admitted his guilt), but seems to show little remorse. Although dog-fighting was part of his culture growing up, at some point in his life, he must have realised that this mass cruelty was wrong and that bringing other neighbourhood children into this culture was all kinds of wrongity wrong wrong. When he made it big in the NFL, he had plenty of opportunities to pursue other hobbies, but instead kept on with dog-fighting - never tried to change. And now that he's out of prison, has anyone seen him in a shelter? Has anyone heard of him donating money to the SPCA? He's spent plenty of time at the Eagles compound - has anyone seen him at a pound? Didn't think so.

Nancy said she heard that one of the local SPCA shelters is using a Vick jersey to scrub the floors.

Still... part of my brain says, "But doesn't he, too, deserve his second chance? Is any less deserving of my compassion than someone who is accused of murdering and attempting to rape a 19-year-old young woman?"

This is what keeps me awake at night.

Damn you, Michael Vick.

(For more on this issue, please read the Philadelphia Weekly's cover story, Pit Bulls in Pain, which is on Philadelphia's weak history of punishing dogfighters.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm just going to post a "what she said" -- Ria's pretty much spot on with how I feel about it (except that I'm not conservative). :)