Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Haters Gonna Hate - Let's not, OK?

I'm not a fan of Michael Vick.  I never really paid much attention to the guy before all the dog fighting details came out.  And after hearing all that and seeing how he tried to deny his culpability for so long, well let's just say I really wasn't a fan then.  I was angered by his actions and his unwillingness to own up to those actions so I was also very glad that he was exposed for what he was: a cold, ruthless abuser and killer of innocent animals -and a liar and a coward.  Listening to him speak and watching the way he presented himself, I could also tell right away that we weren't dealing with a very intellectual individual here.  Had it not been for his athletic abilities, I doubt Michael Vick would've done anything of much importance or value with his life.  I mean, here's a guy who had a multi-million-dollar NFL contract and what did he choose to invest his money in?  Illegal dog fighting.  Really?  Wow. Obviously the guy is not a Rhodes Scholar nor will he win any Boy Scout Character awards. 
Let's face it, Michael Vick probably didn't have very good role models growing up.  Not that I know anything about his youth or his parents, but I'd be willing to bet his early formative years played a large role in how he ended up as an adult.  I don’t think Bad Newz Kennels was the work of an otherwise morally sound upstanding citizen who made an oversight in judgement or slipped up and made a bad decision.  No, dog fighting -and the horrific abuse used to train the dogs- was just an everyday fact of life for Michael Vick.  Just like thrusting a bunch of sharp spears in the spine of a bull is considered normal to fans of bull fighting.  It's just the way it was.  Michael Vikc and his relatives and friends grew up with the notion that dog fighting was cool and violence was normal.  To the rest of us, that might sound crazy and unbelievable, but it's very easy to become accustomed to something as barbaric as dog fighting when you're exposed to it starting when you're 8 years old.
Furthermore, had Michael Vick been able to escape the whole scandal unscathed, I doubt it would've changed his heart and his mind when it came to fighting pit bulls.  He probably would've chuckled and gloated in the fact that he got away with something.  But he didn't.  For all wiggling, lying, and back-stepping, Michael Vick could not escape the truth. And while many will argue that his punishment was not nearly harsh enough, he was punished and he did pay a heavy price for his actions. Every day in this country hardened criminals, murderers, and rapists end up getting off easy because of loopholes in our legal system and restrictions on sentencing.  How many stories have you read about a serial rapist being set free only to end up raping someone else.  Our legal system has many shortcomings and oversights.  But that can't be blamed on Michael Vick.  His lawyers did what any competent legal team would do; they tried to get Michael the best deal possible under the circumstances.  And, likewise, the Government was trying to do the same thing for their side -get the best deal possible.
The bottom line is, despite a lot of people thinking he should have been put to death for what he did, Michael Vick didn't just get a small fine and a slap on the wrist.  He did some serious jail time -nearly 2 years- and in the process he lost his job and all his endorsement deals. He ended up bankrupt. At the end of 2006, Sports Illustrated magazine had estimated Vick's annual income between his NFL salary and endorsements at $25.4 million.  Just over a year later in July of 2008, Vick sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -his finances were in such disarray that a trustee had to be appointed by the court to oversee the whole mess.  So when you take all that into consideration, it's a bit of a stretch for me to agree with the folks who say he got off easy. 
I guess the real salt in the wound for all the die-hard Michael Vick haters out there is the fact that he was able to get his life back after all of that. There's a lot of people that think he should have been barred for life from the NFL.  Maybe so.  But he really wasn't given any special treatment or hero's welcome back. He took another shot and it worked out for him.  As I've stated before, Michael Vick isn't known for his intelligence but he's obviously a naturally gifted athlete. So, if I were Michael Vick coming out of jail, looking to take my best shot at getting some semblance of a normal life back, where do you think I'd look first? Exactly where he did -the NFL.  It's all the guy knew how to do besides run an illegal dog fighting business (and we all saw how THAT endeavour turned out).
I don't want to argue about whether Michael Vick is a changed man or whether he's truly sorry for all he's done. There's so many reports, rumors, and spun-up bullshit out there on the internet, it's hard for me to conclude anything about what Michael Vick the person actually feels inside his heart and soul about all this.  I really don't care. I think he deserved every bad thing that happened to him and, regardless how some people fear this, no one is ever going to forget what he did. Ever. That's always going to be a part of his history now. As it should be. If he didn't really truly learn his lesson from all this -and if he didn't experience a spiritual growth and change of heart well, at the very least, he's doing a decent job at pretending he did. He's accepted responsibility for what he did and he's apologized. Is he sincere?  I hope so, but who can say for sure.
Whether or not he's sincere, I really can't fault the guy for going back and trying to do what he does best; play football.  He's obviously still very gifted at the game and he's been able to gain some respect these days from his teammates and fellow players.  He's making good money again and he's even endorsed by Nike along with coming out with his own clothing line. None of that redemption was handed to him on a silver platter.  He had to work to get it back.  Keep in mind too that a sizeable portion of the money Michael Vick earns will end up going to various charities (in addition to paying off lots of legal-related bills lawsuits) for years and years to come. He's also lobbied for H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would establish federal misdemeanor penalties against convicted spectators of illegal animal fighting and make it a felony for adults to bring children to fights. He founded Team Vick Foundation, a non-profit, 501c3 charity to provide second chances and support to individuals and communities who need it most. He also lived up to his pledge to become an advocate for animal welfare and has appeared in public service announcements for the Humane Society.  This all begs the question what more does the guy have to do in order for people to just move the hell on.  I don't want you to join the Michael Vick fan club or recommend him for sainthood, just stop spewing this non-stop hate campaign against the guy. It's NOT doing anyone any good. Really.  If you vehemently hate Michael Vick and want him dead for all the horrible crimes he committed against dogs, I'm pretty sure you're going to go to your grave feeling that way. To me, that's a little sad, but certainly your prerogative.  Likewise, if you're a Michael Vick fan and/or one of the many (there's more than you think) people out there who just don't see the big deal with dog fighting, you're not likely to change your opinion of the guy based on the words of a bunch of hate-filled wackos constantly shouting at the top of their lungs.  And for all the middle-of-the-road folks -the ones who may not follow football or care too much about animal rights- all this hate is probably just a tad tiring and embarrassing.
 It embarrasses me to a point because I am a self-proclaimed animal lover -dogs especially.  They're an official member of my family and I'd do everything I could to keep them healthy, happy and safe.  We have three dogs -two of them pit bull mixes- and we're fostering a fourth (also a pit bull). All our dogs were rescues and I value their sincere friendship and loyalty and truly place them above some humans that I know.  I don't understand how anyone could purposely abuse such an animal. It sickens and disgusts me and I think there ought to be much tougher laws and penalties for animal abusers.  Along with that, there needs to me more education -starting from childhood- on what it means to be a responsible pet owner.
I think the people who view their pets as disposable pieces of property ought to be smacked up side of their heads and held accountable for the life they would so easily cast aside.  In short, there's a lot of positive things we, as animal/dog-lovers, can do to make this world a better place for dogs and humans alike.  There are already millions of people around the country -and the world- who tirelessly fight to save the lives of endangered and abused animals and I think their service to humanity as a whole is priceless.  But despite all of their efforts, we still have a huge problem of humans taking advantage of animals.  We're at the top of the food chain and a lot of us feel entitled to do whatever the hell we want with the lesser advanced beings we share this earth with. It's a sad fact of who we are as a race. But rather than sit around and feel sad and helpess, it's good to know that one person can, indeed, make a difference.  The key is to focus all our efforts towards positive goals.
Sorry, but in my opinion, constantly posting Michael Vick Hate Ads on Facebook or carrying "Boycott Michael Vick" signs outside of Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles'Stadium) isn't doing anyone -including your cause- any good. You're focusing on hate and recycling gruesome pictures and reminding us all of how evil mankind can be.  You're wasting a good portion of your time, energy, and heart towards spreading hate with no real pay-off in the end.  If all the Michael Vick haters would just focus that energy elsewhere, they'd probably feel a whole lot better and get more accomplished.
Think Michael Vick got off easy in court?  Then find ways to change the laws and penalties related to illegal dog fighting!
Think Michael Vick should have been barred for life from the NFL? Then bring your case before the powers-that-be in the NFL.
As human beings, we're all capable of doing some horrendous things.  But what sets us apart from most of the other animals on the planet is our advanced ability to reason and adapt and evolve.  Because of that ability, we're also capable of some astoundingly awesome achievements.  We've got enough hate and violence and despair in the world right now.  What we're lacking as a race is love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Priorities Askew

The way to get America back on track is simple, but painful.  We have to start back at square one; the Constitution of the United States. It's a perfect foundational cornerstone upon which to rebuild the nation.  Everything else in our current Government has to be honestly re-evaluated and reworked.  The size and complexity of the government has to be whittled down to a more manageable system that is equitable to everyone.  We have to come up with list of priorities for the nation that are set in stone, adhered to, and worked towards -no exceptions.  The constitution was created 225 years ago and, despite its age, the ideals and principles that are found inside -along with the many amendments over the years- are still valid for all of us as a nation.  However, the way in which we implement the constitution is in need of a major upgrage.  There were no cars, airplanes, or computers back in 1787.  Communication and travel over great distances was cumbersome and time-consuming.  The level of education of the average American was nothing close to what it is today. Back then, we needed a way to make the government work for everyone.  We did this through the idea of a few representing the many (i.e., Congress and the Senate).  The Electoral College was implemented in an attempt to make voting fair for all the states -and make the voting process as quick as possible.

Our current Government doesn't work.  It's broke.  The entire country is broke.  We're the victims of decades full of ineptness, ignorance, and -most of all- greed.  Our current government benefits the rich and ignores the poor, the indigant, and the sick. Our current government runs on backroom deals and special interest payoffs and is completely controlled the dual Democratic and Republican junta.  These two political parties control EVERYTHING in the country and they do a really shitty job at it.  That's because most of their time is spent arguing with each other while each is scheming new ways to control more of the money and power.  While members of both parties are completely inept at running a county - a majority of them can't even balance their checkbook- they are highly skilled at making money, hiding money, and deceiving the general public.  They are totally out of touch and damn near oblivious to what the average American is dealing with as a result of their mismanagement and greed. The important things to them are money and power -the two go hand in hand.  A lot of what goes on in Washington is outright criminal in nature but these criminals know how to cover their tracks. They take turns shifting the blame and promising a new tomorrow while the rest of us -the so-called 99%- continue to be bled dry.  And -lucky them!- most of us continue -decade after decade- to believe and/or accept the same recycled bullshit. Why?  Are we all that low on common sense that we can't see that things are getting progressively worse, year after year? Our way of government is OUT-DATED, BROKEN, CORRUPT.  We need to fix it by starting back at square one.

First of all, we no longer need SO many politicians to run things.  We have technology on our side now.  200 years ago there was a valid reason for having representatives in Washington, D.C. for every state and territory.  Now? Why?  Why can't we, with the help of today's technology take an active role in representing ourselves?  Why do I have to depend on some elected dickhead to hear my tiny voice and trust him to carry it all the way to Washington.  How friggin' STUPID is that -when I can now click a few keys and connect directly to the White House web site and communicate directly with the president and tell him what I think? Congressmen, Senators, Councilmen, Delegates, County Executives... the list goes on and on and on.  Do we REALLY need all these people on the Government's payroll?  Are they REALLY making anything better?

How about voting?  I'd sure like to have more than two choices every four years for President. Almost all elections are controlled by the two major parties; the Democrats and the Republicans.   It's obvious that neither party has the answers. I mean, c'mon and WAKE UP people - these two groups have been COMPLETELY IN CONTROL of the country for the last 150 years or so.  Nothing has gotten better -almost everything has gotten worse. Millions upon Millions of dollars are raised and spent by the Repulicans and Democrats during each general election.  For what?  To get their guy elected to a job with a base salary of $400,000 a year.  That's like me raising and spending $100,000 to land a job at Burger King. The plain fact of the matter is that the party who has their guy in the White House gets to control more of ALL THE MONEY IN COUNTRY.  That's why there's MILLIONS spent to get that job.  It's all about power and control of unimaginable sums of money. Money that's used to pay of other governments and other politicians and make everyone in Washington that much richer.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here we are.  The 'ordinary' folks.  The Middle Class, Lower-Middle Class, and the extremely poor.  Half of us continue to swallow the bullshit fed to us by the politicians while the other half of us are so fed up and despondent, we really don't give a rat's ass what they say.  We all can agree on one thing though: things are bad; the worst they've ever been.  A lot of us still complain and a few of actually try to effect positive changes, but the system is rigged so much in the favor of the fat, greedy politicians, there's very little hope of any real change happening as long as the current system of government remains in place.  That's the first major hurdle.

The second hurdle and utmost priority is to take care of our own.  How can we send BILLIONS of dollars overseas to 2nd- and 3rd-world countries when we have up to a MILLION HOMELESS AMERICANS and another couple million living at or below the poverty level.  That'd be like me giving food and money to my next-door neighbor while my wife and kids were starving in my own house.  How can we help anyone else when we can't even help ourselves?  My heart goes out to all the starving and sick people worldwide, but we need to get our priorities in order.  We take care of our own FIRST.  Doing so will only serve to strengthen us as a nation and will eventually enable us to extend that help outside of our border.  But we have to get our own house in order first.

Once we elimanate the homelessness and extreme poverty here in America, the next step is to eliminate the national debt.  Again, this is basic common sense.  How in the hell can you be over $15,630,961,878,404 (that's 15 TRILLION, y'all!) in debt and still be spending billions on budgets and appropriations and send billions abroad?  Where's this money coming from?!  Once I'm out of money -and credit- as a person, I'm done until I either (a) make more money or (b) pay off my credit card.  And if I fail to pay a debt, the consequences are swift and painful.  Not so though for the Government.  Why?  Why should it be any different?  Especially when you take into consideration that the money that they're spending (and obviously mismanaging) in Washington is coming from all us taxpayers.  And we don't have a choice to say "No more, Dumb-ass!  You can't have any more of my money until you learn how to manage it wisely and honestly!"  Hell, if we don't pay our taxes, we go to jail.  But all the politicians are free to mismanage and steal that money without any risk of losing their job, let alone going to jail.  That's just friggin' ludicrous to me.  You get hired to do a job that you end up sucking at -in the real world what happens?  YOU GET FIRED.  Not so when it comes to our elected officials.

Along with taking care of homelessness, poverty, and the national debt, we need to reevaluate our foreign relations with all the countries we're currently "doing business" with.  Most of the "deals" that are in place now are the backroom type. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.  Most are NOT in the best interest of the American people as a whole. They are designed to benefit the greedy government officials on both sides that came up with the deals.  We were not protecting our national interests when we invaded Iraq.  Let's be honest - we were in a post-9/11 hysteria bent on revenge and justice.  Somebody had to pay!  And since we couldn't put our hands on Osama Bin Laden, and everyone else directly responsible for the terrorist attacks died in the attacks, Saddam Hussein seemed like the next best target.  Like we really gave a shit about the the people of Iraq. C'mon, Saddam was killing and torturing them for DECADES before he became a thorn in our side.  No, the flip side for us was the oil.  More money to line the pockets of politicians.  But I digress.  The point is, we need to stop playing Policeman to the World and focus squarely on our own country.  Sure, it's important to develop strong ties internationally, but not at the cost of our own country's resources -our money, our lives. We can't be sending billions of dollars overseas when we have people starving and homeless here.  THAT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE!!

Many will argue that what I suggest is an over-simplified solution and one that is impossible to implement. I say the biggest hurdle is ourselves and our apathy, laziness, ignorance, and -in some cases- stupidity.  We're all willing to bitch and complain but very few of us are willing to take action.  And, let's face it, dislodging this corrupt and gluttonous government would be a long, painful, uphill battle.  There's a lot of us who can't see the forest for the trees -who still think our current form of government is working just fine.  Those are the folks I really fear.  Those are the folks our current elected officials love.