Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Profane Open Letter to the Leader of the Free World, and an Apology to My Readers



Dear President Obama,

You know I love you.* Now shut the fuck up.

Okay, I gave this some time to cool, so I've now read that you did not actually call up the Philly Eagles in order to congratulate them on guessing right about the profit potential of a paroled sociopath.

Nevertheless.

When you call up an executive in the corporate entertainment world -- which, I might point out, as the POTUS you should not be wasting time doing -- you stay on your goddamn message. No frills. I understand your message was supposed to be "Good job making your stadium less of an environmental catastrophe."

But that's not what Jeff Lurie went running to the media to crow about, is it?

No, Lurie spun your phone call into a Presidential endorsement of loving† the puppy-hanger while maybe hating the puppy-hanging faster than a Kensington whore flips a BJ into a crack hit.

Are you surprised?

The White House hasn't denied that you talked about this parolee, or that you used tired cliches such as "second chance" and "level playing field" in referring to the hiring of a creature with bloody hands to catch the ball, run with the ball, throw the ball.** For far more money than you make.

So I reckon you did say that bullshit. Dumbass.‡

It's less clear whether you used the hackneyed language of "redemption," in your boy-talk with Lurie. If so, let's be perfectly clear about something.

Catching the ball, throwing the ball, running with the ball -- done well, done poorly, not done at all -- is not a morally relevant activity.

Jebus doesn't endorse men who play boys' games, or the mega-corporations who own employ them.

But more important, catching the ball, throwing the ball, running with the ball does not and cannot "redeem" anyone as a moral agent.

I'm going to repeat that with smaller words for you sports fans: Good at football not same as good man.

The usual sequence in, for the sake of argument, the "Christian" formulation is sincere repentance -- meaning that one is sorry one did wrong, not sorry that one got caught or suffered consequences -- followed by penance -- that is, working hard for the benefit of others (often the victims of one's misdeeds, or their proxies) for no personal gain and under no extrinsic compulsion in order to make things right -- leading to personal transformation into the kind of moral agent who is no longer capable of the kind of wrongdoing that led to the need for redemption.

Just, you know, ferinstance.

As for "comebacks," these are noteworthy -- not necessarily morally, but of interest -- when the "setback" that provides the stage is extrinsic, or at least not a direct and easily avoidable result of the staggering moral perversity of the one who has "suffered" the setback.

One can perhaps be inspired when an athlete comes back after blowing out a knee. It is not morally relevant in the way that sports writers like to sell, but it may speak to character traits such as perseverance that we generally favor and to which we aspire.

From what has Vick "come back?" Merely the cushioned, mitigated, kid-gloved semi-consequences of his own freely-chosen, focused and sustained moral depravity. From a token prison sentence for a few of his crimes, and unconscionable legal and media gloss over the worst of them.

Also, just saying, court-ordered community service is not a mitzvah. It's part of the goddamn sentence. Completing it is not optional, so you don't get extra credit points. It is not intended to "clean up your image" on the way to lucrative endorsement contracts.

There is, likewise, no "heroism" in apparently discontinuing ongoing acts of violent atrocity after being stopped by force of law. Most of us manage to refrain on a daily basis without threat of prison. Our "self-restraint" is not praiseworthy, even in these grade-inflated times. It's not even self-restraint, because normal people do not ever fucking want to electrocute dogs in our swimming pools.

I am quite certain, Mr. President, that as the doting father of two daughters, you would not go out of your way to praise an employer who hires an unrepentant serial child torture-murderer to perform any job -- and because he's good at it, to pay him $5.2 million. You wouldn't justify the crime because the murderer had served time, even if he'd served time for the actual crime. (It bears repeating, Vick has not).

Doesn't the same consideration extend, in its way, to your dog?

While the tradition of political-pet-as-prop is too longstanding to ignore (nearly as venerable as the political wife/accessory), you seem to be genuinely fond of that hairy beastie Ted Kennedy gave your kids. It's hard not to be, right? That's the thing about dogs, isn't it? Like children, they disarm you; even despite yourself, they bring out some of the best core parts of the real person in there. For most of us, that's the open, trusting, innocent, unselfconscious giver and receiver of love. And with a dog as a catalyst, we might even bring a little bit more of that creamy center out into the rest of our lives, where the people around us can enjoy it.

It is that part of ourselves that bleeds when we hear of a child or a dog who is tortured. And that blood that rises into primal outrage when we see that the abuser will not be held accountable.

Cogitate on what Michael Vick's dogs -- loving, trusting, loyal dogs no different from the "cuter" fluffier kind -- brought out from the inside of their owner, what they revealed to the world about what occupies that center. And then tell me what the prize is for redeeming that ticket.

Sincerely,

An American

_________________________

* This is by no means unconditional.

† Or at least exploiting for execrable profits, as long as that keeps working out.

** Good thing Vick can do all three. No dog in his right mind would fetch it back to him.

‡ If Bush had done the same thing, the world would have found out what a really profane open letter looks like. And you know, that's not fair. So thanks for reminding me of that about myself. I'm going to pay attention to that.


* * *

An Apology to my Readers

Yesterday I published this post.

When I arrived home last night, I found a backlog of comments. (Comments are now moderated, as the spammers have honored this blog with their love). Almost every single comment expressed sincere white-hot outrage at the British judicial system and the RSPCA for this obvious miscarriage of justice. If you think the post above is profane ...

A more careful reader -- or perhaps just a person who has read more of my work and can see it coming -- catches the conceit of the post.

Because the "news article" is a fabrication, and was meant to be recognized as such.

It began with a friend's musing about what the general public would think of Michael Vick if he had gleefully tortured and killed animals other than pit bulls -- something fluffy and "cute." Kittens, perhaps.

Because people get caught up in the dog fighting aspect of his crime, and fail to stay focused on the psychopathic torture-killing of the dogs who disappointed their "master."

I took it further. What if Vick wasn't any good at football?

In other words, what if someone non-famous was treated as Vick has been?

It is too implausible that someone non-rich would be dealt with thusly, so I kept that part, and set the stage in a foreign land.

I asked a British friend with an eye for written nuance to edit the thought-experiment; she made it read more authentically British, and further, British second-rate newspaper.

I'm not going to name these co-conspirators, because the end result is all my fault.

I became rather pleased with the result as a piece of collaborative writing, and lost track of its likely effect on readers. Having constructed something that was too convincing, I thoughtlessly set a trap for them. That was never my intention. I honestly thought that this would play out like many articles in The Onion*; that is, initial outrage or astonishment, followed by "Oh, it's the bloody Onion. Got me again you jerks." But of course, this blog doesn't provide the context that an Onion header does.

I honestly figured that "Victoria Michaels" would jump out at people and cue them. I was wrong. Too subtle when someone is RWA. (Reading While Angry.)

The names of her co-defendants and mother -- also derived from the Vick case. The name of the judge and kennel, invented whole-cloth. The RSPCA, a real organizations that, as far as I know, has never made such a deal with the Devil, unlike its US "analogue." Swindon and District Animal Haven, a real charity that, as far as I know, is worthy. Holloway prison, Swindon, Wiltshire, Goatacre -- real places, where Victoria Michaels has never lived.

After sleeping on it, I've decided not to release the many comments posted yesterday. A big thanks to the spammers who set me up to have this time to consider things. It would be terribly disrespectful to "trap" readers -- many of whom I know to be thoughtful people -- and then leave them hanging out in public to look foolish to people who already know "the answer."

I'll release any comments made after a link to this post is active at the top of yesterday's.

I'm sincerely sorry.

________________

* Without being, you know, funny in any way.

26 comments:

  1. So, judging by the comments you got (and understandably did not release) is it safe to assume my musing was correct? Changing the details leads to near unanimous outrage?

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  2. I will keep stamping my feet on this subject, but it's important to recall the one thing Vick has not recovered yet is his product endorsements. All this talk about him getting a dog is really a lead-up to him being sufficiently "reformed" in the public eye for Nike (his biggest former sponsor) to name a shoe after him again, or whatever.

    There's a reason it's called the National Felons League.

    Gina Spadafori posted a link to this powerful image that graphically illustrates Vick's depravity. (I don't know if it's visible to non-Facebook users, but you can try. It's on comedian Elayne Boosler's photo gallery, so it's likely to be found elsewhere, too.)

    A far funnier -- and just as to the point -- illustration can be found in this recent Sonoma Press-Democrat blog editorial about the Vick case.

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  3. Unfortunately, people in general these days seem to be unable to discern parody or satire even if you hit them along side the head with a wet guinea hen. Look how over the top The Onion has to be.

    As far as your letter to POTUS, you hit it out of the park.

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  4. One more thing before I leave the topic: I do not recommend a Google Images search for the terms "Michael Vick dogs", at least not for anyone who cares about animal welfare.

    Also -- re Obama's comments:

    I have been digging around trying to find anything that actually provides a first-person account of them. So far, the best I can do is a ProFootbalTalk blog post that cites an NBC broadcast by Peter King:

    President Barack Obama recently called Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate the team for giving quarterback Mike Vick a second chance.

    President Obama explained that a level playing field rarely exists for prisoners who have completed their sentences. Vick’s success gives all of them hope.


    I thought his comments were fairly tepid, if careless, but it also bears repeating that this is the same President Obama who has spent his time institutionalizing an external gulag and indefinite, unconstitutional habeus corpus-free detention. That is, he seeks power as an end to itself, and has exhibited little if any actual empathy; his concern, first, last, and always, is what he can do for the powerful.

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  5. Helen, we haven't conducted that experiment.

    My blog readers mostly come pre-enraged about Vick, so there's no way to say.

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  6. No mention of the Philadelphia Eagles passes me by without it making me wish for a life-altering or at least a career-ending injury for Mr. Vick. Surely, somewhere out there in the NFL, there's an large, angry defensive tackle who feels the same way I do. No one is a more loyal supporter of President Obama than I am, but what was he thinking??!

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  7. I feel a little foolish! I was a little suspicious at the transposition of the name but it all went out the window with the rest of the story! Hoolihan, you tell a great tale! I was pissed right on cue!

    Margaret in NC

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  8. Long time reader. Color me embarrassed about accepting the abuser of little white dogs story on face value (there are a lot of sick people out there, so why not in England). Those saying that we are only outraged because Vick black are missing the point.

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  9. That's a good point.

    I am so indifferent to football, I had NO IDEA that Vick was black until people started accusing me of being racist.

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  10. ok, my excuse is that it was too plausible to be a parody. Yeah, that's it.

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  11. Here, Here! Well Said, and no apology needed to anyone. If there was any justice, Vick's punishment would be to have both his hands broken. Let's see him come back from THAT.

    Tom Johnson, Michigan

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  12. Think you ought to check out the RSPCA. In the UK they are pretty controversial. The Australians aren't to keen on theirs either. See:

    RSPCA-Animadversion
    http://rspca-animadversion.org.uk

    SHG
    http://the-shg.org

    RSPCA Injustice Blog
    http://www.rspcainjustice.blogspot.com/

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  13. You hit the nail on the head! So many people see "dog fighting" and "Pitbull" and seriously don't equate it with their own little "Muffy". Mike Vick is a psychopath, he didn't just buy into the whole "Pitbulls were born and love to fight thing". Which is bad enough. But when your IQ is like 40, maybe that works for you. He got a kick out of torturing and killing these animals. Sick S*b! And there is no coming back from that, no redemption or restitution. I keep posting on this freak every chance I get, everywhere, but they usually delete it. Must be the part where I always beg to give to the "assasinate Mike Vick fund". I'am not kidding, either. Tina.

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  14. All I am going to say is you are BRILLIANT-your letter is perfect!

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  15. This is one of the most balanced and rational comments on Obama's remarks that I've read, criticizing what Obama really said and did, in a clear and rational way. Thank you.

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  16. Paula G From IndianaJanuary 2, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Things almost always go way over my (fake) blonde head. I picked up on Victoria Michaels immediately. I am surprised that most people didn't get the Onioness of it. The story was way too much coincidence to be true. Speaking of truth, I do not know if this is true or not, but I have heard Obama did not pick up the phone to give condolences about the two firefighters lost in his own hometown of Chicago. This was all going on the same time as the Eagles Phone Call.

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  17. I am soooo thankful to you for writing this fantastic blog post. I been blogging my paws off. now am going to have to do a top five best media about this topic and this is right up there in the top five, along with what Best Friends wrote, what Anderson Cooper said, what BadRap just wrote about the white house literacy project (everyone who can send POTUS a Lost dogs book). I also say call the white house. heh heh. I did, it was fun. my cici girl (dalbull) woofs her kudos, too.

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  18. I can appreciate the desire to applaud giving former prisoners equal opportunity, but as you point out, serving one's sentence hardly raises one to the level of role model, or counts in any way as a mark of good character.

    My issue is not with Michael Vick being given the same opportunities as the numerous other degenerate bastards that populate our pro sports teams. It is that there is ultimately so little stigma attached to either hiring or being a degenerate bastard who makes boatloads of money, or promoting said degenerate bastard as a role model for our children.

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  19. Patrick San FranciscoJanuary 5, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Thank you for writing this. Excellent. You put the right perspective on the situation which helps - so I hope - the reader understand the issue. Thank you a million times. I am fed exing a letter to the president. I hope alot of people are outraged and his complete waste of office (and i am (was) a supporter of his)

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  20. Dang, I laughed myself sick. Love your footnotes. Love the name of your blog, too. It's my own favorite excuse for . . .whatever.

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  21. Finally read the Vicks/Victoria fluffy white foo-foo dog remix/parody. The principle is the same--some really evil actions equal burning your Dog Owner card, just like some really evil actions equal burning your Parent card.

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  22. This was by far the best open letter I've read it. Absolutely brilliant.

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  23. What an amazingly well-crafted letter. I was linked to you via BadRap's blog. Will visit often.

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  24. Same thing happened to me with my 'Ontario Moves to Ban Labrador Retrievers' post a few years ago.

    I wanted others to get a little buzz of the way 'pit bull' (lol) owners feel. Since I'd spent so much time watching the Legislature on TV I could mimic the relevant politicians perfectly.

    I thought it was totally obvious that it was a spoof and even had what I thought was a fail-safe link that revealed the 'gotcha'.

    Well, no. I got more than ten times my usual number of hits - I was talking to my friend on the phone and every time I hit 'enter' my hit counter increased by another 500. Like 500 every three seconds or so.

    Certainly got a reaction. Which was, after all, the point.

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  25. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!! GO, raised by wolves!!!!!!!! I love you, so do my pit bulls. I agree with everything you said 110%, with all my being.

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  26. I love you. You are 110% right about everything you said. I am behind you all the way. Perfect blog.

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