So, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers went out and signed pariah quarterback Michael Vick as what is likely to be a short term fill-in as a backup. Predictably, a few dim, narrow corridors in the social media maze have gone ablaze with fury fired so hot that it quickly consumed all available oxygen, which resulted in secondary hypoxia for all therein. That anti-Vick crowd, now gasping for breath, still writhes angrily on the floor, contorted in bitter and frustrated resentment.
“Vick screwed up–but I think it’s safe, if not particularly correct or popular–to say that the business with dog fighting has a certain cultural element to it–and by culture I mean, yes: poverty, latitude, and race. That isn’t an indictment of any group–different communities have their vices–poor people, and black people are inordinately represented among the poor, are more apt to be involved in dog fighting than wealthier folks–and it doesn’t hurt that the latter know better how to keep their hands appearing clean.
Dog fighting, and its associated abuses, was not taboo in Vick’s microcosm. He grew up around it, like a lot of poor city kids, and while he probably knew in the abstract that it was wrong, it didn’t really sink in until he was hip deep in trouble. (and for the love of the gods why doesn’t the NFL hire a team of “cleaners” who would find these kids and see what they hell they’re into that won’t wash now that they’re famous, then make them stop?) Ignorance–or even the fact that in much of the word dogs = calories–doesn’t exonerate him, but it does explain what he did and why, and it’s long past time to move forward from what happened because, as those before me said, he’s paid what society demanded of him. And more. He went to prison and lost millions upon millions of dollars as well as the prime years of his athletic career. We forgive a lot worse people for a lot more terrible things.
He also worked his way back and, as far as we know, has been an exemplary citizen (and yeh, I’m knocking on wood as I say it) and an admirably professional athlete. The free agent cupboard is pretty bare, especialy at quarterback, and I can’t think of a better available free agent, between his maturity and his skills. I’m glad that the Steelers are going out and taking care of business pro-actively. If Gradkowski wasn’t hurt, I’d think differently. At this point, I don’t sign Vick over Bruce–but with no viable backup (Jones is still a project and then some)–there simply isn’t anyone else out there right now, and from a purely football standpoint this is a good signing.”
Within a few minutes of posting this, one of my “real name” friends stuck up an angry change.org petition on her facebook page, that bleated “Michael Vick is a convicted felon and no-class piece of crap. He is also a terrible QB which is why he has no team. Let’s united as Steeler fans – as NFL fans – and stop him from playing on our team! Steelers fans united! Sign to keep Vick from ever wearing the coveted Steelers uniform!!”
Ugh. If there is one thing that makes me want to invite Michael Vick over to the house for a nice, “Welcome To Western Pennsylvania” meal, it is a Change.org petition.
Change.org petitions are one of several reasons that I have stopped identifying myself as a liberal, which strictly speaking I never was, at least not by definition. Libertine, but not liberal. As I’ve said before, my politics skew to the old school Bull Moose progressivism–populist, anti-corporate, strong domestic policy, etc–and the namby pamby sensitivity that accompanies “liberalism” as it is colloquially regarded, respulses me. These petitions are little more than vehicles for us to feel good about ourselves with the least possible effort–look, ma, I clicked against that guy who did that thing! I clicked hard, too! I was really ticked off! I made a difference! Yay me!
We’ve become too weak, too fragile in our sensitivities, and it the case of Mr. Vick, we’re grossly hypocritical. He killed dogs. It’s a terrible thing. I love dogs. I love my 40 pound dog who sits on my lap and lets me hold her like she’s an infant. I prefer her company to that of all but a very few humans. Vick’s actions disgusted me, but how much do we ask of one man–at what point do we forgive? We work tirelessly to rehabilitate other criminals–we cheer them when they transcend their missteps, however vile, but because Mike Vick is famous he must be forever marked. If he was a stringy haired punk from the corner who’d done his time, cleared his parole, and got himself a new job, we’d point to him as gleaming beacon of hope for the success of justice system. But he’s a black dude who runs fast, and gets to be on TV, so he’ll never pay enough. Would we resent him if he got a job at Dairy Queen? No, because the schadenfreude would be washing over us so thick and warm we’d tremble in orgiastic delight.