Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dogs and People

Larry O'Donnell has thrown the Huffington Post into a frenzy with a "what's the big deal?" post about the Vick dog-fighting scandal (currently 457 comments at this writing). Sample observation: "Between bites at McDonald's today there will be a lot of outrage expressed about Michael Vick getting off easy. I won't understand a word of it." Irreverance is what Larry does, and so it's not surprising he was the guy to write the post. He certainly wasn't the first one to make the observation, though.

You don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate what's wrong with dog fighting. You don't have to be a vegetarian even to see what's wrong with the meat industry. We have these sexy brains that allow us to hold opposing views simultaneously--even while legitimately avoiding hypocrisy. Larry's sort of right then, but his grade on outrageousness exceeds his logic score.

Where the hypocrisy lies isn't with the outrage at Vick, it's that people aren't equally outraged by professional athletes' crimes against other people. I know the NFL has a long rap sheet, but I like the example of Kobe Bryant best--he's a star of a similar status as Vick, he's black, and he took advantage of his power over another being (he was accused of rape, a charge he managed to get settled out of court). And the outrage was ... well, there wasn't any, really. Kobe is now one of the biggest stars in the NBA and no one mentions this piece of history. Why?

The NAACP jumped in to defend Vick and asserted that the outrage was racially motivated. They were both wrong about Vick (you think people would let Peyton Manning kill dogs?), and wrong to miss a more important point. Why is it that no one cares when a young black man is shot or beaten up at a night club by a star athlete (an all-to-frequent occurance), but sent around the bend by abused animals?

We have a fractured society, one in which NASCAR rednecks can say the most horrific things about gay-lovin' liberals and feel the position is actually moral, and where liberals dismiss NASCAR rednecks as half-witted fascists with the same self-righteousness. We have done a great deal to distinguish ourselves from one another and rob our own compassion. This happens across political, racial, geographic, and religious lines.

But not so much across canine lines. Dogs we can relate to. Other people . . . ?

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