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.
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
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.
* 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.