SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT MR. VICK AND DOGFIGHTING
I think there is an easily accessible subtext to what Messrs. Marbury and White are saying. (Call it the dog-whistle effect; I believe it resonates in my African-American ear more than it does in my animal-loving ear.)
Neither of them is suggesting that dogfighting is acceptable. What they are suggesting is that one sport involving cruelty to animals is widely accepted and legal, while another is illegal, heavily stigmatized, and has earned a celebrity participant a possible trip to prison (among other sanctions).
While I won’t argue with anyone who says that dogfighting and its associated activities offer demonstrably more cruelty and sadism than the relatively quick deaths suffered by hunting victims, that isn’t the point Marbury and White are making.
I believe they are rather obliquely calling up a larger issue: our society is rife with cruelty and violence, and some it is carried out merely for sport. While we rightfully go after a high-profile minority who gets caught with a hand in abusing animals for sport, most of us are barely disturbed by the sorts of activities that are engaged in largely by middle and upper-class white people.
Yes, I’m talking about hunting. Now, I have no serious moral issue with hunting, per se. If you’re hungry and you’ve got a gun and there’s a lot of meaty animals around and you can’t wait for the harvest, then by all means go out and kill you some dinner. (I buy my meat from the grocery; it’s already been killed for me.) But I can guarantee you that the vast majority of people stocking up at Cabela’s aren’t missing any meals between hunting excursions. Call it what you want, but the vast majority of hunting in North America is nothing but killing for fun. A small percentage of it is gratuitously pointless and cruel.
Of course, the outrage over Michael Vick (and the relative lack of outrage over, say, Dick Cheney) also has much to do with North American affinity for dogs as pets. Other animals, feeling no less pain than dogs, don’t normally garner as much sympathy. However, the ethnicity and class issues of this should be ignored no less than the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine.
So while I might have been a bit stronger in voicing my disapproval for Michael Vick’s actions, I would certainly still agree with R.L. White when he says that Vick should pay whatever penance the government demands of him and then be treated (especially by the NFL) just like any other rich ex-con whose offense had nothing to do with his profession.
And I’ll add one more thing. While I would certainly expect some serious legal sanctions to be handed down to anyone who engages in dogfighting or this activity, I am looking with a jaundiced eye at a society that wants to put Michael Vick in a hole for torturing and killing dogs while willfully paying six-figure salaries to assholes who are guilty of torturing and killing innocent human beings.