Let’s forget Michael Vick… when there’s no longer a need to remember

I’m tired of Michael Vick.

On Saturday, my father told me that the rest of the country was tired of the Vick story too. The majority of Americans had moved on, he said. Neither angry protesters nor passionate fans were making much of a raucous anymore. It seems the shock of Vick’s crimes had worn off. There were other societal ills in the spotlight, other scandals to follow and fallen athletes at whom to gawk.

Vick isn’t playing that much or that well, Dad said. Soon he’ll be out of the NFL for good, his “second chance” little more than a cameo appearance. And while I never, ever want people to forgot that dog fighting is a horrific, barbaric activity, I felt slightly relieved to think I could soon forget about Vick.

On Sunday, Vick played, arguably, his best game of the season. Two touchdowns and fans chanting his name. Then this morning, I saw the CNN headline “Vick protesters still vocal.” Maybe Vick wasn’t fading quite so fast after all.

That’s when I made the mistake of clicking on the news clip, which was actually covereing the reaction to the protesters. I became confused and disheartened and fired up all over again.

One woman interviewed said she supports Vick “no matter what.” Was she honestly saying that no matter what he does, be it torture or killing or lying to authorities, how well he throws a football is more important?

Another fan sneered, “Go protest child molesters,” and again my blood began boiling. You go protest child protesters, if it’s important to you. As for me, acting as a voice for those that don’t have one is infinitely as important. (By the way, haven’t we covered this issue already? Suffering is suffering, no matter the species.)

My father had asked me what it would take for me to forgive Vick. A good question, and one I didn’t have a great answer for. Real remorse, genuine action – none of which I’d felt I’d seen, but how could I know for sure? Maybe he is a changed man. Maybe it is time to move on.

I decided to watch another news clip. This one, Vick’s most recent talk to a group of New Jersey school kids. At first I was optimistic: He admitted he hadn’t cared about how animals feel. It was the first time I heard him take ownership of his actions, the first unrehearsed answer I felt he’d offered.

But a moment later, the profundity and sincerity seemed to disappear. Take care of your animals because they can’t speak or do sign language, he advised. Michael, did you really need those dogs to tell you that they’re feeling pain? Were their cries not loud enough? The blood and carnage not clear enough? Don’t pretend you didn’t know they were in agony.

Yes, our animals depend on us. Yes it is our duty to protect them. Not because they can’t talk, but because hurting others is wrong. What I’m waiting for Vick to acknowledge is that inflicting pain on those who can’t protect themselves doesn’t make you tough. It just means you’re too weak on the inside to do what is right.

He then went on to say he did what he did because he “just didn’t know [better].”

I have no idea what makes someone commit the crimes he did, but I don’t believe that he didn’t know better than to not cause unspeakable suffering for so long and to so many. I don’t believe it and I can’t respect that answer. I need him to take responsibility–acknowledge his monstrous deeds–before I can forgive him.

So, America, I hear you when you say you’re tired of Michael Vick. I’m tired of him too – tired of writing about him, tired of watching in disbelief as others downplay his sadistic acts. It’s not my intent to destroy Vick’s professional life, and I don’t wish him destitution or misery. But what I do wish is that cruelty of any kind is no longer tolerated. No matter who you are. No matter how tired of it I get.

– Leslie Smith