I was just reading about how that guy on FOX, Tucker Carlson, said that he thought Michael Vick should “have been executed,” for his role in the whole dog-fighting thing. Carlson then goes on to hammer Obama for saying Vick deserves a second chance. I’m an animal lover, so for a long time I hated Vick, too. But I do think people can learn and change. Our society tends to want to throw away what’s uncomfortable instead of dealing with it. What do you think?
If they started executing people for being shrill, provincial, and willfully unaware of the damage their lopsided rhetoric inflicts upon the suggestible, Tucker Carlson would be at the front of the line–blindfold in hand. Barring that, in a sane world his prep-blazer stance on pretty much every issue except repealing the estate tax would at least be widely ignored. But this is not a sane world, and Carlson retains his time slot, so let us look dispassionately at the facts:
Michael Vick, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback with a massive fan base and a hundred-million dollar contract, allowed one of his houses to be used as a training center for dog-fighting. Although Bad Newz Kennels, as it was called, was mostly run by childhood friends, Vick himself participated in the “training” of some dogs, which involved what is essentially canine torture. Police found “rape stands,” pry bars, treadmills modified for dogs, blood-stained carpet, and fifty-five pit bulls. Vick admitted to having personally killed “six to eight” dogs by either hanging or drowning.
This is, of course, heinous behavior. The reception of pleasure from cruelty. The actions of a man seemingly without empathy, if not outright sociopathic in nature. Warranting swift and commensurate punishment.
Convicted of abetting an interstate dog-fighting ring, Vick spent two years in federal prison at Leavenworth. His NFL contract was voided. He was ordered to repay twenty million dollars in signing bonuses. Owning multiple homes, supporting a dozen family members, and having three children with two different women, he was forced into bankruptcy. As well as vilified by a hysterical press until every last ounce of titillation was squeezed from the story.
In this context, I think President Obama’s words were brave. They also raised numerous questions. Was Vick punished enough? Do people deserve a second chance?Is it healthy for society to ostracize parolees, particularly since eighty percent of those currently incarcerated will eventually become one? Did Vick’s celebrity factor into his sentencing? Would Payton Manning have been treated the same, better, or worse? Does race play into President Obama’s empathy for Vick’s situation? Finally, is a fall from grace, a term of imprisonment, a highly public apology, and a vow to radically change one’s perspective enough to forgive a man, regardless of his crime?
Michael Vick has returned to the NFL with a great deal of success. He seems to have made, at least on the surface, a transformation. Although it has come about with the help of a team of advisers and managers circling his post-prison earning potential, there’s an evident sincerity in Vick’s astonishment at the cruel stupidity of his actions, and his subsequent willingness to embrace change. Nevertheless, Vick remains a pariah in many quarters, and there will always be a stigma attached to his name, no matter what he achieves or how he lives the rest of his life.
In the meantime, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, Ivy League graduate and noted wearer of bow ties, could not be more of a caricature of privilege, inherited wealth, and the brand of conservatism that stems from having no context beyond his limited and rarefied personal experiences. Is he familiar with what it’s like to be locked in a 6×8 cell in Leavenworth for over 700 straight days? While Carlson was attending St. George’s prep, in Newport, Rhode Island, Vick was attending Ridley Circle Homes, the notorious housing project in Newport News, Virginia. Michael Vick is said to have attended his first dog-fight at the age of seven. He was raised in an environment of poverty, violence, and racial stigma. He was also, due to his evident physical gifts, selected as a child for athletic grooming. Much like a pit bull puppy, he was indoctrinated in the mores of an extremely violent sport for the financial benefit of others. A sport that is inextricably tied to gambling, callously discards its injured, and is divided (white, ownership) along absurdly polemic (black, players) racial lines.
Is Tucker Carlson fit to pronounce judgment on Michael Vick? Further, does Carlson display a sociopathy of his own, casting himself as an arbiter of justice, a man sure that he alone is imbued with the terrifying wisdom required to de-contextualize a crime?
If you take Carlson at face value, he is advocating the execution of a dog killer. Which means, by extension, he is also advocating the execution of the perpetrators of all crimes society deems more egregious than the killing of dogs. This would seemingly include murder in any context. Probably also rapists and pedophiles. What about attempted murderers? Incorrigible thieves? Drug dealers? Bank robbers? Enron executives? No matter where he draws the line, since there are over two million people incarcerated in America, by far the largest population in the world, he is advocating immediately executing hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.
Tucker Carlson fills the airwaves with speculation, titillation, and quarter-truths aimed at bolstering ratings–a loop that results in unearned celebrity and incredibly cynical economic benefit. In his unwavering allegiance to all things Rove-doctrinaire, he also regularly weaves a narrative of disdain around a call for stronger leadership–while lacking the ability to recognize when a politician is actually displaying it. No doubt President Obama knew aligning himself with Michael Vick was a loser in the polls. But he said what he believed.
Meanwhile, the suggestion of Michael Vick’s execution, and the sublimated racial animus contained within, should be open to its own commensurate judgment.
Who would play Dust in a movie version of Ask The Dust?
Dear Casting Director
Well, Helvetica 12-point would probably be a good choice. Times New Roman hasn’t done anything good in years, and Courier Bold is deep into that whole tedious method-acting routine. Not to mention, I’ve heard, banging Julia Roberts.
Seriously, though? I’d go with Daniel Day-Lewis. No one else could deliver a line so convincingly about guzzling a Dust milkshake.
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