Michael Vick wrote a book. It’s called “Finally Free.” I haven’t read it, but I can only assume the title is self-referential and not a nod to the dogs who escaped — dead or alive — the hell that was his Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation.
In 2007, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for running an illegal dogfighting ring. He received the longest of the sentences doled out in that case because of his “less than truthful” statements about killing dogs.
Vick lied when taking a polygraph and throughout the trial attempted to distance himself from the dirty work of torturing animals. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson said at the time of sentencing, “I’m not convinced you’ve fully accepted responsibility.” Prosecutor Michael Gill put it bluntly: “He was in this thing up to his neck with the other defendants.” And the judge wasn’t buying it either, declaring, “You were instrumental in promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity.”
Obviously, I’m not a Vick fan.
But a lot of people are — most of them in Philadelphia, where Vick has spent his time since his release in 2009 throwing passes and scoring touchdowns for the Eagles.
And a lot of people aren’t.
Earlier this month, Vick was scheduled to sign copies of his new memoir at Barnes and Noble bookstores in Atlanta, Philadelphia and New Jersey. All signings were canceled due to threats against Vick and store employees.
Violence begets violence.
If forgiveness is as Desmond Tutu describes — Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning. — then Michael Vick is forgiven.
Since his release from prison, Vick has gained the support of the Eagles, the NFL, the City of Brotherly Love, his family, his publisher and even Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle. He got his chance, his new beginning.
But forgiveness by society on behalf of a voiceless injured party is complicated. How do the parents of a murdered child forgive his killer? Who am I to forgive Hitler his sins against victims of the Holocaust? Is it a belittlement of the wound suffered by another or a lessening in value of the life that would have been — or does it just feel like it?
And can you truly forgive someone without fully realizing the nature of their crime?
“Finally Free” isn’t the only source of writings on Michael Vick. Through September 2013, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C., is hosting an ASPCA exhibit of the artifacts of dogfighting: crimemuseum.org/Dog_Fighting. The exhibit features evidence seized by the ASPCA during dogfighting raids, as well as tools used by forensic scientists to determine how these animals suffered and died. Included also are Vick’s indictment papers, which shed light on the details of the dogs he fought and those he killed.
“Finally Free” might be a worthwhile read. But I doubt it’s a full account.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
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