Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Michael Vick

As an Atlanta resident and longtime fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I feel I ought to weigh in on the Michael Vick dogfighting case. I'm sure most everyone's heard about this case, given how disgusting it is, and how famous Michael Vick is. On Monday Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, essentially guaranteeing Michael Vick will spend at least a year behind bars, possibly more.

As soon as I read the lowlights of the indictment last month, I knew that, for my own part, if Vick remained with the Atlanta Falcon this season, I would never watch another Falcons game so long as either Vick played or Arthur Blank owned the team. I'm quite positive that a sizable percentage of Falcons fans felt the same way, such was the rage people felt after reading the charges. Fortunately for Blank, the NFL never game him a choice as to what to do, promptly banning Vick from training camp until it decided what to do next. I'm not so sure that Blank, who a couple years ago signed Vick to a 10-year contract worth $130 million dollars, wouldn't have put aside the city's (and perhaps his own) disgust for their former football star's crimes in favor of recouping a bit more of his wacky, wrongheaded investment.

We knew from the incident at the airport with the weed and the water bottle that Vick was none to bright. Not a particularly damning charge to make against an NFL player. But this? This proves how little we can truly "know" people in public life. Not bright, kind of pompous, but a man who tortures animals to death? Though it might not be to others, it is a surprise to me just how disgusting a guy Michael Vick turned out to be. These charges, which Vick yesterday copped to, make me wonder what happened in Michael Vick's life that made him believe, like the rapist thug Sugar Ray in "L.A. Confidential", that "dogs ain't got no reason to live"? I don't mean to be flip by referencing what was, in context, a funny line from that movie. To the point, I remember when I saw that film and heard that line specifically, I thought to myself, "no one really thinks that." I thought a sensibility like that was just a flourish from the half-phony hard-boiled imagination of James Ellroy. I just couldn't imagine a person could bear such steadfast, unapologetic animus towards, of all animals, dogs. Now I know there are people like that in the world, and, up until a month ago, one of them played QB for the hometown team. What an embarrassment.

Who was it that instilled in him the idea that animals, specifically dogs, are not living things but insensate toys? Did his parents lead him to believe that? Was it more widespread in the culture that Vick came up in? While he was electrocuting, drowning, shooting, and beating pit bulls to death, did Vick understand that their howls and thrashings were more than just the product of synaptic messages sent from the brain into the body of the animal, but were in fact a product of a sentient animal feeling pain? Did he care? I'd ask what pleasure could Vick have possibly derived from making these animals suffer before extinguishing their lives, but I know already. You can see hints of that same glee in the photographs taken of soldiers humiliating detainees at Abu Ghraib, broad smiles and upward-turned thumbs while posing next to a detainee who was tortured to death, or a man quailing in terror from an attack dog. I don't mean to equate humans and animals here; I understand that the degradation and torture of an animal isn't comparable to that of a human, but by the same token, isn't this idea -- that animals are so much "less than" human beings -- what allows the animal-torturer (like Vick) to engage in this sort of behavior in the first place? If animals are, in fact, so much less than human beings, why give them any legal protections at all? Is it a convention of so-called polite society? Is it because "decent people" don't hurt animals? Is dogfighting outlawed because it's the sort of thing that's "just not done"? I don't know.

I think this case is so clear-cut because, at the end of the day, Vick was more than inhumane to these animals, he was cruel. And if there's anything our legal system abhors when it comes to how humans interact with animals, it's cruelty. Andrew Sullivan wrote this about Michael Vick today, and I think he says quite succinctly how a lot of people feel about this matter:

"... it seems obvious to me what is wrong about [what Michael Vick did]. In a word: cruelty. It's a vice we don't talk of much, but it is essentially the aspect of the human psyche that sees a vulnerable person, animal or thing, and exploits that vulnerability with further violence or power. It's evil. It's why I despise torture in every form. It is not just the absence of love or respect; it's the active presence of its opposite. And animals, creatures over which we have near total control or dominion, are more vulnerable to such cruelty than many humans. Vick is an inhumane bully, an exemplum of cruelty and arrogance."

Right now the NFL is deciding what to do with Michael Vick. Obviously, he can't play before or during his inevitable prison sentence, but what to do with him afterwards? My strong preference would be to ban Michael Vick from the NFL for life. I think he's earned that much.


blankfist said...

Oh how you forget... so I must repost.

Crane! Dude! What are you doing on the Colbert Report?


blankfist said...

Well, isn't this post interesting? It really is. Abuse of animals is something that really grinds my gears. Someone who uses them for sport irritates the crap out of me. You see a seeing eye dog, and I feel we all agree (except for the PETA nuts) that this is a good use of animals, no? Pets are too, right? They get to live a wonderfully long life of eating crappy dog food. And just for the record PETA hates that too. Not just the crappy food part, but also the whole "pet" thing.

PETA aside, the courts still think of animals as property. This is important to consider, because if the courts can prove you were abusive (which is the case of Mikey Douchie Vick), then, well, you are in trouble. That seems to be something we all agree is pretty horrible. But, that brings me to the property thing. There are many times when people have seen their dogs killed by whatever means and when they sue the people they think are responsible they feel incredibly slighted when the judge explains that their animal is considered property just like a coffee table or your car could be considered property.

At the end of the day, I think that makes sense. It's not about animal population, either. It's really about how they're not human. Yes, they're not human. In the end, what's important (whether we like it or not) is that we're human.

While I'm at it, National Health Care is crap. Eat that.

Debra said...

very well said.


Anonymous said...

I do agree with animal cruelty laws and with regulating and fining people who are overhunting animals. Many of these laws of saving endangered species were originally created to preserve human economic long term livelihoods or were implemented to preserve a vital ecological system because they were...you guessed it required to sustain humans in the long term.

Humans are connected to the environment and depend and thrive from it (pharmaceuticals, everything we need comes from our natural habitat).

But there comes a time when all species naturally go extinct and die out - what is interesting and controverisal is the notion that our economic and life systems that sustain our consumption habits and population growth have created an accelerated depreciation that has been very difficult to control or stop. Basically, we as humans have burdened the planet to such an alarming degree - that we might not be here for much longer. But the earth sure will - with a whole array of new species. So, then sustainability, green building, slow growth, population control (abortion, contraceptives) is pushed and implemented. All of this - has a anthropocentric focus - pure and simple. To preserve human lineage forever.

Now - there are radical movements (ALF, PETA) -that have taken it further - that believes in actual animal liberation (read Peter Singer) - that animals (all animals) should have individual liberties and rights - animal rights. That we should not have them as pets, eat them, wear them,use them for experiments etc...Why? Because they are defenseless and that we should know better - meaning that this is another hyper example of positive animal husbandry.

Well it is true to a point. For example: Great White Sharks don't eat people - they think we are seals and when people overhunt sharks the seal population increases and the fish population diminshes, thus hurting the commercial fishing industries and local fisherman. It is all connected and is rooted in our survival.

Now - follow PETA's logic and we have a human society that treats animals, plants as equal to humans. Now - you might have a more caring society - but would this be realistic? Do we REALLY need animals as pets? Do we really need animals for manual labor? Do we REALLY need all the meat that we eat (as most of it is proven to cause diseases of all sorts)? And outside of luxury - could we use alternative fibers for clothing and other goods outside of animal hide? Could we move more towards a grain, vegetable type diet and still be healthy and survive within this post-industrial mileau? And would animal rights only be attributed to post-industrial democracies and not backwards agrarian societies still dependent on the water buffaloe? And who would be the judicial body to oversee that these laws are enforced into the international community with parity - the UN? A new body?

Well, many believe that it can be done (and the earth would thank us) - but what is needed is a concise philisophical reasoning behind this focus - with scientific facts - not mumbo jumbo ideological, emotional bullshit.

Moreover, religion in general would never go for this due to the fact that it would then usurp their hierarchy. Instead, their fear would be that cults would appear worshiping animals. Aaa! Competition! No longer will animals be considered as property (like women and african slaves from the past) - but equal citizens such as you and I.

To me PETA - is another religious cult that worships animals at the expense of humans and this is what rubs people the wrong way.

The vitriol of PETA's fury blinds and detracts what could be an interesting debate that could change everything in this century.

As for Heath's comment about NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE. Tell that to the 65M Americans or more with no health coverage.

Dude, make sure you get really rich so that you can afford the "right" coverage. Otherwise, you are fucked if something happens to you.

Please Heath - you must right some facts down to back your assertion that NATIONAL HEALTHCARE is terrible and that a system based on free market principles for providing health care would be more beneficial. So far - I have not heard of one good reason to go to a 100% privatized model. Yes, we have the best system - but only the well to do can afford it.

blankfist said...

I don't have health insurance right now, Anon. I had it for the past 8 years though, and aside from Dental I haven't used it once. So, here's the facts you asked for:

"I just won a free ipod by clicking here. It really works!"

So, there. Irrefutable evidence that national healthcare is flawed and just simple will not work.

Anonymous said...

Heath, why are you wasting time on this site when you should be reviewing headshots.


Gretchen said...

There is a huge difference between Peter Singer's view of animal rights and animal welfare. Animal welfare is where one's efforts should be focused because it's a little thing called PRACTICAL. Animal rights activists want to give animals all of the same legal rights that we enjoy. Here's the problem with that, cats, dogs, rabbits, oxen, horses, you name it, even dolphins don't employ logic and are not capable of the same level of rational thought that we are. Animal Welfare focuses on making sure that animals are always treated humanely, whether they be kept as pets or as a part of a research facility. Having gone to school at UC, where the research department is not only huge but productive, I can say two things about animal research: 1) it's nothing like what PETA would have you believe, and 2) it's far more complex than anyone not actually exposed to it can possibly imagine. I have helped cut a research mouse's teeth (he had a severe malocclusion) so that he would be healthier and not malnourished, and also more comfortable. In a study with over 1000 mice, they take the time to take care of every single one. What I'm trying to say here is that PETA promotes a dangerously myopic and uninformed view of animals and their use in our society. Fuck PETA.
About dog fighting, Crane, it's everywhere. Find me a poor neighborhood and I'll find you some fighting dogs. At one of the clinics in Cinci where I worked there was a simple policy regarding pit bulls: If they come in with cropped ears (prevents other dogs from latching on) and a tail (for pulling them out of the ring), you don't touch it. They most often have scars all over their head and neck areas, and cower in fear of the guy at the other end of the chain leash. They absolutely will bite a person, but more often it is out of fear and not aggression. They will also attack another dog in a heartbeat, but this time it is out of a trained-in aggression. The whole practice is disgusting. More often than not the owners will try to medicate the dogs themselves in their own basement rather than seeking treatment, so when a vet finally does see the dog it is often either too late, or nothing can be done because no one is able to get near the dog.
Dog fights make me hate my job. Michael Vick ought to be covered in liver and left in the middle of a fight ring with his own dogs free to maul him.

Peggy said...

I agree with Gretchen.

Let's make Michael Vick and Kobe Bryant fight to the death, then kill whichever one survives, just when he starts to feel excited that he killed the other.

blankfist said...

Yay! We all hate PETA! Yay!