Some of you know that over here, in the States, an American football player named Michael Vick was signed to a team. He had been serving time for doing unspeakable things to animals, things that I would probably lock myself away for even thinking.
Some of you are also aware that the entirety of the Internet is already up in arms over this. I was at a sports message board and it took about a good minute once the news hit for people in droves to express their hatred of this man and all his progeny and the team that signed him. And by “express hatred,” I’m using a euphemism, obviously.
My thoughts are as follows:
- We’re media-obsessed, and getting our thoughts directly from the television/media feed. Vick was on American TV all the time, there was no way to avoid this story or the spin on it, i.e. “he’s the worst person ever.”
- People want celebrities with faults and convictions to kick around. They are intentionally looking for this, and you can see to a great degree how this has affected modern politics. It means we elect politicians that are Messianic AND keep electing Ted Kennedy, both at once.
- If we think not about the particulars of health care reform or the stimulus or ACORN getting federal funding (don’t get me started) or anything like that, but just look at the behavior of everyone over the past few months, hmm. It looks like things have severely decayed, that no one feels any sense of restraint about anything. Everyone feels justified and is looking for a quick and easy justification (hence, why I don’t always like LGF, despite the fact I respect what they do. Events by themselves don’t even attempt to explain the whole). I know there are lots of people who are restrained, but it is clear the dominant attitude is “get mad,” and I don’t think I need to tell you where that will end up.
Ironically enough, the most thoughtful comment about the Vick story may offer us a way out of the third problem. From SethD posting at footballoutsiders.com –
As someone who’s worked in a legal aid clinic, gotta say this news makes me happy. This does set an example: if you complete your legal punishment, you can pursue the best career possible. That’s a message everyone should take to heart. I’ve worked with people who were guilty-guilty as sin- but who had cleaned up, flown straight for a decade, and still couldn’t get a job. That’s not right. For my money, punishment should end when the law says it does, like it did here. For those who say there’s a double standard, that’s true, but it’s not the NFL or Eagles in the wrong, it’s the rest of the country.
Also, I don’t buy the “demonstrated immorality” argument some people have advanced. We judge people for their acts, not what’s inside. Vick was punished for his acts. The road of “well he’s thinking. . .” ends at the Ministry of Truth. The point about recidivism when he gets rich again, however, is well-taken.
All that said, as an Eagles fan, not really sure what they’ll do with the man. But, I, at least will be eager to find out. (Though I don’t mind people giving up their tickets. If demand plummets I might be able to afford a seat.)
The sense of restraint has to come from a respect for law, and in some ways this makes me way, way, way more conservative than anyone alive today. The only way to get it back is to put the building blocks in place for a class of statesmen in both parties: without statesmen, we cannot trust that the law and its application and enforcement are shaped properly. We are certainly displaying a contempt for law and the government that wields it in not even remotely trusting its judgment right now: we trust absolutely what the tabloids say. Re: statesmen – people like Mitt Romney and even Hillary Clinton will do at the moment, but they have to be looked at as professional politicians, not people who are really working to understand issues and the people involved. This is not going to happen immediately, because the key to statesmen isn’t so much them as us: we’re the ones who have to know that it is possible to be perfectly justified in something and still go to excess. We’re the ones who have to not watch the same sports show 8 million times and either get sick of it or adopt their viewpoint completely. We’re the ones who have to accept democracy as a responsibility, for all rights are really responsibilities.
One reason why I push literature so much is that if you guys see what making every word count does for a poem, things like “Yes we can!” not only fall on deaf ears but actually get sickening. And it doesn’t hurt that people like Shakespeare and Dickinson don’t reduce politics to how they respond to celebrities, but think of it in terms of what can be accomplished (i.e. security, freedom), and what the limits of a given order are (i.e. what can be said plainly, what not?). When we talk about what people bring to their moral attitudes and how they think they should treat each other, we are talking about politics, and not in some broad sense: you can see that exactly now that things are showing a sign or two of breaking apart, where people think it is appropriate to bring guns to visits by the President of the United States.