Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dog Fighting, Violence and Vick

Outrage won’t cover it; depravity won’t describe it. What possible joy or thrill can be derived from watching dogs chew on, bite and attack each other with the intent to kill? What kind of parent takes his youngster along to witness the “sport” of dog fighting? And why would someone who makes millions as a star quarterback with a National Football League team care about a $20,000 purse for his winning dog? Obviously it’s not for the money, then why is he involved in dog fighting? There can only be one reason—to satiate a sadistic appetite for blood sport and gore satisfied by watching animals socialized to tear each other apart and kill within an enclosed space from which there is no escape.

Michael Vick is a sports figure. For a living, he runs around a grassy (or carpeted) field and throws a ball to other people who make the same kind of living. And he is paid millions for this activity. Cushy work if you can get it.

What his dogs did for a living isn’t so cushy. At his Bad Newz Kennels the dogs got to be teased, poked, beaten, and thrown in a pen with their muzzle duct-taped shut so that they cannot bite while other dogs chew on them for practice. And when they are made mean enough they are placed in a wooden cell with no way out to face another dog who is also vicious, made so with the same methods-- by humans. If the dog does not perform well, it’s dowsed with water and electrocuted. According to the indictment, execution of Vick’s dogs was frequent and by sadistic means—electrocution, hanging, body slamming. Does this remind you of anything? It’s reminiscent of what the Romans did to Christians in the coliseum. The lions got to tear apart Christians and the audience got to watch, for sport. Thumbs down for a gladiator who didn’t perform! Is dog fighting so different? Different species, same barbarism!

If you thought the Romans were uncivilized, consider that this is the 21st century in America! Dog fighting is illegal for good reason; it is usually associated with drug dealing and other illegal trafficking. But it’s the violence to innocent live beings that is staggering. What kind of mind believes that this brand of violence is “normal?” Is entertaining? Anyone who condones Michael Vick or his hobby is as guilty as he is, by association. Violence made into sport has no place in a civilized culture. Anyone who perpetrates violence on any sentient being is not someone to lift up as a hero in the sports arena or any other arena.

Animals feel pain, have emotions, form bonds, establish social groups, and dogs protect and often rescue humans. Animals can’t speak vocally to humans to communicate how they feel about domestication and human-animal interaction. Some animals’ treatment at the hands of humans is abysmal and lacks mercy and compassion due to ignorance or a primitive mind set that hasn’t recognized them as sentient beings with rights. But any human individual, no matter how Cro-Magnon, can see the harm in fighting dogs for bloody sport. Dogs are not born mean. And they can’t consent! Any person, civilized or not, can reason enough to know that when animals are made aggressive, are forced to participate in fighting with the intent to kill for sport, that activity is not only amoral but depraved.

When rescued from fighting, dogs cannot be rehabilitated and can never be trusted with humans again. They live with perpetual fear, aggression and hyper vigilance. The only fate they therefore face is euthanasia as a way to end their misery and miserable lives. These dogs never know a kind word, an affectionate touch or the loyalty and joy animals can experience in a positive human-animal bond that fosters mutual joy for each partner. They are never to know comfort or companionship as they view other dogs as threats and indeed they are all killers. Trained to be so, sadly, by a human who exploits them to satisfy sadistic appetites.

Children who witness cruelty to animals, torture or killing of animals develop PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Studies have shown a direct link between cruelty to animals and domestic violence. Between domestic violence and spousal homicide. Does domestic violence and spousal homicide bring to mind another NFL star quarterback? Apparently if one can be desensitized to the cruel treatment of animals, it can make beating a spouse easier. So, those fathers who took their children to Bad Newz Kennels were practicing, demonstrating and role modeling violence to youth. They were making future violence against partners and the ‘hood easier.

Michael Vick promoted violence in his ‘hood! Unfortunately because Vick is a national figure, his neighborhood is the entire country. Yes, I call for the NFL to expel Vick. Take away his millions. Get him (and quickly) out of the spotlight and hero’s role of a sports figure who made it big. Remove him as someone whom youth look up to and emulate. Youth need someone positive to revere and imitate. This is especially urgent for black youth whose only models these days seem to be rappers who spew misogyny and adopt “gangsta” behaviors, and sports figures-- some of whom have unsavory habits.

Michael Vick is even more culpable than Imus whose comment about “nappy-headed hos” finished his career. The argument of innocent until proven guilty is a precept for court, not for life. Tangible evidence of dogs and fighting paraphernalia seized from Vick’s estate is indisputable evidence of cruelty to animals (put mildly) and of Vick’s part in it. I think the judge may find it hard to penetrate Vick’s mindset with any punishment that fits the crime or that will help him “get it.” The NFL should expel him but I wouldn’t expect that to reach his Neanderthal mindset either.

There is nothing “manly” about exploiting innocent beings for twisted gratification. There is nothing admirable about perpetrating violence on those who can’t protest or refuse. There is nothing funny, cute, laughable or “marketable” in torture and killing, at least not in a civilized world. People like Vick and his cohorts do not “get” the sanctity of life or the meaning of “bully.” They only seem to understand when someone speaks their language or stoops to their level. A fitting punishment in that world would be to have Vick bound and gagged while one of his Cujos is let loose to do what he has been trained to do best while the whole event is broadcast on Pay-Per-View with proceeds going to animal shelters. Lucky for Vick that the justice system and culture he lives in is far more humane and civilized here in the 21st century than he and his cronies demonstrated by their sick hobby. The only good thing that can come out of this is public outrage and a re-examination of what is meant by and valued in “sports.”

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A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...