Michael Vick, On My Mind

vick.jpgFor a variety of reasons, many of which I really don’t want to address at this particular time, sports just ain’t my thing. When I was a kid I played baseball and watched it on Sunday afternoons on Channel 11, and I’ve always loved Roller Derby. Not that bullshit stuff they were doing back in the 1990s with out-of-work models skating around tracks and jumping over pools full of alligators. No, I’m talking about the Los Angeles Thunderbirds, and Ralphie “The Guatemalan Flyer” Valderes, and the Washington Brothers, and “Skinny” Gwen Miller. But this isn’t about the bygone days of Roller Derby, or how I was a little league superstar, or even how much sports just ain’t my thing. In fact, I’m not 100% sure what this about, ‘cause right now I’m sort of freestyling. But I do know that in part this is about Michael Vick (as for the rest, we’ll just have to see where it goes).

To be honest, when I woke up this morning—after another night of restless sleep where I woke up reaching out for a woman who wasn’t there—I had no idea I would be writing about Michael Vick. As it stands, I’ve been trying to avoid this conversation for the last week or two, because I know that by stating what’s on my mind I’m going to piss off a ton of people (especially PETA). But something inside snapped, and now I just need to get some shit off my chest.

Just in case some of you are new to what’s going on, Michael Vick was the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons (that’s a football team in the NFL for the truly uninformed) who recently plead guilty to multiple criminal charges related to dogfighting. And just in case some of you are really out of it, dogfighting is exactly what it sounds like—two dogs (in this case pitbulls) mauling the shit out of each other while humans place bets on the outcome.

Vick, who is something like 27 years old and just signed a ten-year contract worth $130 million, was busted for his involvement in an illegal dogfighting operation. He is currently facing federal charges, and may soon face state charges as well. He’s likely to spend at least a year in prison, but if he were found guilty on all charges (both federal and whatever state charges he may face), he could conceivably spend 40 years in prison.

Now, let me state for the record that what Vick has plead guilty to—which means he admits he did it—is pretty fucked up. In addition to forcing dogs to fight, he also admits to participating in the torture and executions of dogs that did not perform well on the battlefield. So, just to recap: what Michael Vick did was pretty fucked up.

But we are talking just about dogs.

There, I said it.

Let’s be real for a moment, I know we like to think of dogs as being man’s best friend and all that shit, but in some countries, people eat dogs. And you know what? If some serious shit ever went down in this country, and we ever started facing serious famine, I guarantee you that there would be some dogs cooking on the stove. It doesn’t matter how loyal or loved a dog may be—food is food.

But the use of dogs as a viable source of nutrition is not what this is about. What is bothering me—at least part of what is bothering me—is the fact that dogfighting and cruelty to animals are offenses that carry with them not only stiff punitive penalties, but social stigma as well. If you’re charged with cruelty to an animal…well…that’s almost as bad as raping women or abusing children. Actually, being mean to a dog can be a worse offense, at least in the eyes of the law (not to mention the public).

There, I said it.

I mean think about this: Michael Vick will likely serve a minimum of one year in prison. He may serve as many as forty years. Compare that to the seven years served by Oliver O’Grady, the Catholic priest/pedophile who admitted to molesting as many as 25 children. O’Grady was sentenced to 14 years for his crime, but he only served half the time.

O’Grady molested children. That means he sexually abused them. That means he raped them. For that he was sentenced to 14 years (that comes out to just over six months for each child he sexually assaulted). Vick, on the other hand, could face up to 40 years in prison (although it’s highly unlikely he’ll receive a sentence like that).

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Something is wrong with our society. The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war began is quickly closing in on 4,000. And who really knows how many Iraqi casualties there have been? But we as a society are outraged over what Michael Vick did to some dogs? WE ARE JUST TALKING ABOUT DOGS!!! Yes, it is terrible and cruel and fucked up and morally reprehensible. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen the pictures. But the war in Iraq is also terrible and cruel and fucked up and morally reprehensible. And it’s not dogs that are being ripped to shreds, it’s human beings. And I’ve seen those pictures as well.

When a society reaches a point where paying a man $130 million dollars to throw a ball is acceptable, meanwhile some poor schmuck who got his spine shattered or his legs blown off in Iraq is simply fighting to get decent medical care, well that’s when things are really fucked up. I know. I know. I know. I’m just stating the obvious. But the obvious clearly ain’t all that obvious, because there are still millions of people in this country that just don’t get it. There should be no debate or discourse in any forum on how the NFL should handle Michael Vick until we as a country come up with a solution about Iraq. And if we can’t solve the Iraq equation, how about the funding of public education? And if we can’t do that, maybe we could talk about the deterioration of the environment, or the diminishing supply of fossil fuel? And if we can’t talk about that, maybe we could talk about Catholic priests fucking children?

My point is—in case you haven’t figured it out yet—is that there are more pressing matters than Michael Vick, the NFL’s personal conduct code, or treating animals as bad as we treat other human beings. (And if you don’t think we treat other human beings like animals, may I call your attention to a place called Guantanamo.) I don’t have the solution to any of these problems. But I do know that we need to get our priorities straight.

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