Thursday, December 13, 2007

Free Mike Vick

Ok, not exactly. But I've had it up to here with hearing people get all high and mighty about the evil phenomenon that is Michael Vick. He's not a real person anymore, he's a cause to latch onto and condemn.

Mike Vick did something socially unacceptable. It is also legally unacceptable, apparently. When I first heard Michael Vick was running a dog-fighting operation, I thought, oh hell, this guy is going to become a pariah. I wasn't even sure there were real laws against dog-fighting. I mean, of course there are laws prohibiting just about every damn thing, but I had no idea that it was a serious felony punishable by life in prison. (yeah sure, each instance is only punishable by a few years, but if you're involved in dog-fighting, then every time you commit each single act, that's another few years, and they can all be imposed consecutively, thus life for a handful of offenses.)

And it's not just state laws. It's federal and state, and you can be charged under both for the same offense, apparently. (thus, if you ever do get out of federal prison, you then go to state prison to serve out the rest of your life.)

And did you know... Michael Vick not only did the dog-fighting thing, he also tested positive for marijuana! And, get this, he tried to take a fake water bottle through airport security! Lock this fucking guy up forever and throw away the goddamn key.

In this civilized world of ours, we kill all kinds of animals for all kinds of reasons. But we've decided, in our civilized way, that Michael Vick's life is less important than the lives of a few dogs. Sure, the things he did can be considered barbaric. Some of the things he (or his cohorts) did are things you wouldn't want your kids to see, and stuff you don't like to visualize or think about in detail.

But surely we can enforce our distaste for these actions in a more reasonable way than completely ruining the man's life. What we have done is lock him in a cage (for the greater part of his life, probably, once he serves time on all the federal and state charges), take away his livelihood, shame his family, impoverish his children, subject him to jailhouse rapes and beatings, and brand him a worthless criminal non-person.

I don't condone what Mike Vick did. I like dogs. I wouldn't want to see two dogs attacking and killing one another. I don't like to think about them being electrocuted or beaten to death. That kind of thing deserves some sort of societal penalty. But I'm goddamned sick and tired of hearing newspaper writers and radio hosts and teevee personalities talk about Mike Vick as if he were Satan on Earth. The schadenfreude is appalling. And believe it or not, a lot of it has that "well that dope-smoking uppity negro finally got what he deserved" kind of flavor. Fuck You! How many veal cutlets did you wolf down today, fatty? That sure is a nice pair of lambskin gloves. Thank goodness they melted the faces off of hundreds of guinea pigs before they developed a cucumber-melon facial mask that won't melt your face off!

Please. Shove your absurd moralizing up your goddamn ass.


bgirl said...

I'm mostly with you on this, especially regarding the obvious racial dynamics in his sentancing. However, your statement that "That kind of thing deserves some sort of societal penalty" has humored me. Like, hey, I'm not inviting the Vicks over for canasta next Tuesday?

In Oklahoma (where I live), a ban on cock-fighting was on the ballot recently and I was all, "What the hell kind of place do I live?" So, I guess I pretty much associate stricter animal cruelty laws (though only for the cute, inedible ones)with civility - or the illusion of civility - more than anything else?

But Jesus, if lack of civility were a federal offense, I would have spent much of my youth behind bars, I suppose.

HHL said...

That is an interesting way of looking at it, and I think I agree. In other words, someone who would run a dogfighting ring (or go to a dogfight, for that matter) is less "civilized" than someone who wouldn't.

But on your first point, I didn't mean a "social" penalty, I meant a societal penalty (in other words, a formal penalty imposed by society). I don't know exactly what form this should take, but I guess some kind of jail sentence isn't necessarily too severe.

But I should also mention that, although I know you meant it as a joke, not inviting him and his family over to dinner is -- at its essence -- a fairly severe penalty when taken to its logical extent. If, as it appears, so many people agree that dogfighting is horrible and Michael Vick is horrible for being involved in it, then it isn't just dinner invitations he would be missing out on. It's endorsement contracts, cushy post-NFL media gigs, and just generally being ostracized from polite (civilized) society.

A good analogy is how we handle bigotry. Civilized people can all agree that bigotry is bad, and if a person is discovered to be a bigot, then that person is punished pretty severely in a lot of different ways, though not by a prison sentence.

And yeah, same here... I might still be in prison!

HHL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HHL said...

A couple more points on this:

1. As civilization evolves, certain things that used to be acceptable become unacceptable over time. Dogfighting is one of these things, and I agree that it is uncivilized. And for the record, I am firmly against it.

2. That being said, it seems somewhat arbitrary to elevate dogs over other non-human species for special treatment. I mean, the vast majority of people don't particularly care when other species are destroyed for our amusement or to otherwise make our lives better or more comfortable.

3. It might be said that this elevation is not arbitrary, but springs from a longstanding special kind of relationship that humans have with dogs ("man's best friend" and all of that). This isn't just b.s. made up by the AKC or something, it really is true. So from that standpoint, anyway, it isn't arbitrary.

4. But when you start to consider the reasons behind this elevation in a legal context, I think it starts to get really problematic. After all (as mentioned above), just because most people consider a particular behavior to be uncivilized is not a good reason to criminalize that behavior. Being of a libertarian mindset, I generally think that the only good reason to criminalize a behavior is because the behavior harms others. The "others" here being other people. And this principle mainly rests on the idea that once you start criminalizing behaviors that harm non-people, you run into the problem of which non-people should be protected and to what extent, and these are questions that are much more difficult to resolve -- and for people to agree on -- especially given the wide variations in cultural norms that people observe, grow up with, etc.

So... I guess there isn't any perfect answer to this, but I do think that Mike Vick in particular is being punished too severely and that people in general are too damn judgmental.