Michael Vick: Do You Forgive Him?
I field phone calls fairly regularly from publications and news outlets asking for comments and clarifications on columns, posts and random articles that I’ve written. Last week’s solicitation, however, came out of the blue. Why was ESPN magazine ringing? I mean, it’s not exactly a bastion of mainstream animal information, right?
It could be only one thing, I finally decided: It’s to do with Michael Vick.
No shock there. Over the past couple of years I’ve written several columns and posts on Mr. Vick’s criminal escapades and tenuous grasp of morality with respect to animal life. And Vick, star-powered football player that he is, is still very much in the spotlight. So why not reprise this incendiary subject, the ESPN folks must have figured, as they planned an entire issue to do with Vick and his exploits. The public, it would seem, is still hungry to hash it out.
Again … no shock there. What was somewhat surprising, however, was ESPN’s line of questioning. Instead of digging for moral indignation (as you’d expect a sporting news publication might in this case), it turns out the search was on for a more nuanced approach to this polarizing subject.
Which is why when the senior editor reached me, the first thing she asked for was my take on why some animal people seem constitutionally incapable of forgiving Michael Vick of his crimes. What is it, she probed, that keeps some of us so galvanized against him, despite his highly publicized overtures for forgiveness? Sometimes it even seems as if the more he pleads, the more we want to squash his televised face beneath our boots.
I, for one, totally get the Vick-intolerant POV. Though I think I can muster enough of an ecumenical perspective to temper my formal opinions with a more relaxed take on the subject, I don’t have much of a problem with those who believe Vick’s sins are inexcusable.
After all, it’s one thing to play morbid games with a dying frog when you’re eight years old. It’s quite another to engage in the systematic abuse of dogs as a twenty-something college graduate.
Yet I’m not intractable on the subject either. So it is that when ESPN asked me point-blank what I thought about the subject of Vick’s forgiveness, that I was able to offer a roughly-worded blanket statement:
I don’t blame those who believe Vick’s crimes are indefensible and unforgivable. The fact that these crimes were levied against some of our society’s most innocent victims is what drives the extreme moral indignation that attends this issue. Much like crimes against babies, children, and other innocents, this abusive transgression of Vick’s elicits especially strong reactions among a huge swath of society.
Increasingly, humans are willing to liken crimes against animals to crimes against humans. In years past, such a parallel would draw jeers of indignation from those among us who felt that crimes against humans and animals could not be legitimately compared. Given recent advances in modern psychological research, however, it would seem that animal advocates have been vindicated: It’s becoming increasingly clear that those who would abuse animals are similarly predisposed to the abuse of humans — young children, in particular.
Not that this has anything to do with Vick’s particular failings. As far as we know, he’s all about the fighting dogs and naught to do with abused babies or children. But here’s my point: I do believe that when those among us who hold sharply critical, unforgiving POVs against Vick as a free citizen and millionaire footballer, it’s because we just can’t stand the stench of anyone who could muster enough inhumanity to abuse an innocent. Any innocent.
Here’s what I told the ESPN people:
I want to be careful not to conflate crimes against animals with crimes against children and babies, but let’s nonetheless be clear on this: Those who engage in the former have been shown to possess a predisposition to crimes against the latter. And, ultimately, the reality is that our abhorrence of crimes against animals is very similar to our disgust over crimes against human children. After all, they’re all innocent.
So it is that this seemingly irrational lack of forgiveness on the part of so many animal lovers is perhaps more than it might initially appear. Perhaps it’s more to do with the fundamental human inability to discern a difference between anti-child and anti-animal crimes that makes for this particular brand of unforgivingly staunch anti-Vickness. Once a child-beater, always a child-beater. After all, there are some things in society we DO NOT forgive.
Dr. Patty Khuly