There are some stories that just might as well have "It's a slow news cycle" written on their foreheads. Case in point.
I regret that it even matters that President Obama believes that quarterback Michael Vick receiving a second chance in the NFL is a good thing, but when he's asked about people like Snooki, I guess this is a step up. (That the President phoned the NFL owner who signed Vick and expressed said belief probably should be an even smaller deal.) However, as race, privilege and a strangely self-sustaining public anger at a famous convict are tossed into the aforementioned slow news cycle, away we go.
Avoiding cynicism, we actually can glean something important from this episode.
As Laura noted, I was tweeting a little bit about this with Ezra Klein yesterday. The White House's explanation for the call to the Eagles owner may be, as I told Ezra, sauteéd bollocks dipped in weak sauce. Klein's convinced that was the case; I don't think it'd be so unbelievable for a President to call the Eagles about alternative energy use in sports arenas, considering what the team is doing and how much energy these stadiums actually consume. Reading their posts, I disagree with both Ezra and Laura in different respects: Vick is hardly an example to cite when discussing diminished earning power of those who've been incarcerated, and I think those who are still angry with Vick are more concerned with dogs than money. All that is a distraction from the real reason this is still news, so never mind those bollocks.
To revisit: Yes, Vick's crimes were ruthless and nauseating. (I'd stop short of calling them inhuman, since what humans do to animals we don't keep as pets makes his acts quite human.) And yet, the root and true meaning of the word "penitentiary" is obvious in its first eight letters. Why so many of my fellow Americans feel the need to punish him forever is beyond my capacity to explain. Whether Michael Vick is truly reformed, only he can know. He's given every indication of late, both on and off the field, that he's learned his lesson.
Still, there are those like Fox News' Tucker Carlson, who want to kill Michael Vick for what he did. Carlson's is the latest, loudest manifestation of privilege and anger, judging casually with inflammatory rhetoric. (And on the flipside, no, Michael Vick is not being "lynched" in the media, or anywhere else. If he were actually being lynched, Carlson would already be satisfied.)
I have lost family members (for significant time) to jail, and lost one (forever) to people who are now in jail. In that latter experience, I actually know what it's like to want someone to die for their crimes. But I'm no longer interested in judging those who've already been judged, nor belching forth exaggerated anger and enforcing some sort of social imprisonment on them because I found their crimes particularly horrific. Ostracizing those who've done their time can lead only to recidivism, and calling for it is a luxury that we can't afford. If there's anything we can learn from this now much-too-famous phone call, it's that the President clearly understands that.
(Image: Paul Sancya/AP)