NBC’s Peter King reports that Barack Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie earlier this week to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. According to King, the president said that released prisoners rarely receive a level playing field and that Vick’s story could begin to change that.
The reason I like this so much isn’t that I’m a big fan of Michael Vick as a player – though I am – and it isn’t that I’m a big fan of the Eagles – I’m definitely not; every team that has ever been anywhere near Pennsylvania, and especially those in Philly, can go to hell. It’s that people are irrationally harsh towards released convicts. We have this whole system set up where we say, “Okay, you did these wrong things, so we need to fix the situation”, and the way we fix things is to come up with sentences of certain periods. If anyone thought for a damn minute about what we’re doing, they would realize that by agreeing to the very idea of releasing people after certain periods of time, we’re saying, “Okay, we can call the situation fixed after X days/weeks/months/years.” We may not considere it entirely fixed (hence probation), but we are, as an obvious matter of fact, considering the bulk of the situation resolved. But emotion gets in the way.
From sports shows to articles to conversations, I have heard people say again and again that Vick ought to be banned from ever playing in the NFL again. All that does is ignore everything we’re saying as a society about the very idea of prison sentences that result in release. He has served his time. Even though prison should not be about punishment (because that’s plainly petty), the pro-revenge/punishment crowd ought to be satisfied by the fact that Vick has completed his sentence. More so, for reasonable people (who aren’t usually American), the fact that Vick’s time in prison has made it virtually certain he will never again abuse animals ought to be satisfying. In this case, we can say he went to a correction facility – and we’ll be honest when we say it.
So I am very happy to read the President’s words on Vick. If we’re just out to make the lives of people terrible because they did a terrible thing, we’re just hypocrites. And more importantly, we aren’t improving anything. I would think with such a large Christian population that we might do a little more turning of the cheek. (Unless people are just picking and choosing their morality from their religion…) I cannot say I am overly hopeful that Obama’s praise of Vick is going to radically change things for the better, but it is a step in the right direction.