Saturday, October 17, 2009

Redemption of a dogfighter

Redemption. It's a returning, a circling back to what is right, an atonement. The word is loaded, it has myriad connotations, depending on the speaker or listener. For me, it has a distinctly religious flair, which is perhaps why I shy away from using it (being a pretty non-religious agnostic). For others, it's making up for wrongs committed, a way to mend the broken, repair the damaged.

No matter. Redemption is about integrity. There is nothing muted or obscure about it. It is an honest attempt at repayment and rectifying wrongs.

Which is perhaps why reading this editorial leaves me confused.

I firmly believe people can change, that they can shift their way of thinking and acting. In my line of work, where I strive to encourage behavior change, I have to cling to the idea that people's beliefs and stories can be modified or transformed into something new and hopefully better. Otherwise, what's the point? I like points, by the way.

Back to redemption. When Mr. Vick speaks of apologies, he leaves unspoken words hanging - regret, dishonesty, lack of integrity. To hear him is not to hear someone who feels a wrong has been committed against another sentient being, that it needs to be righted through change in behavior and continued action to set it right (or at least even the scales). Instead, there is a lack of remorse, a lack of comprehension that those dogs, those creatures who rely on the generosity of humans to thrive, that they suffered. That they felt pain. That they experienced fear in the face of their death. That they enjoyed moments of pleasure and contentment. That they were more than a tool for arrogance and ego.

You don't get that from Vick, the sense that he really, truly, honestly cares about the wrongs he has committed.

Which is why there cannot be redemption for him, not until he can look into the eyes of every dog, into the eyes of every child who aspires to be like him and say I am sorry, I have done you wrong, let me try to do some good.

And the HSUS is enabling him. More than that, they distract all of us from what real redemption involves. We yearn for stories of people changing, of truly transforming their mundane or tragic lives into something worth writing home about. It gives us hope, comfort, makes us feel like there is meaning and compassion in this world.

There are people like that and HSUS enables them as well, making their relationship with Vick all the more schizophrenic and distracting. They work with urban centers to spread the message that dogs are companions. They offer awards for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of people who feel pitting two living beings against one another in a confined area constitutes fun. They work with people like Sean Moore who, when you hear him speak or see him with his dogs, sit back and go that man, that man cares about dogs. Or people like Tio Hardiman who works tirelessly to stem the tide of gang violence and abuse against animals in Chicago.

These are people who care about the animals intrinsically linked to their community and its problems. They are former dog fighters and gang members who work every single day to create change and make up for past sorrows. They should be lauded and emulated, for certain. And if Vick does learn anything, I hope he learns that honesty, a true ability to convey remorse and putting compassion and words into actions and deeds....those are far more provocative, far more meaningful than spending a few hours talking to kids about how dogfighting is, you know, um, something you'll regret.

So HSUS can do what it wants. I assume it's big think-tank knows what it is doing by associating with Vick. I can certainly hope Vick finds actual redemption, as I hope that for all people who are knowingly cruel and feel regret (assuming said quarterback feels regret about the dogs).

I'm just not convinced that Pacelle's title is accurate, that this person is seeking redemption or truly trying to repay society or the dogs or himself back for his past actions. I hope I am wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

f'ng A.
There is NO redemption without recognition and apology.
Pacelle has killed more pit bulls than Vick ever did, so I really do NOT want to hear him on this subject.