September 7, 2015
As a reward for a week of excellent school work, I took Matthew to see “Antman.” The Marvel superhero adventure flick provided a fun distraction, and we shared giggles. The premise of the movie involves an ex-con who finds walking the straight-and-narrow difficult. The poor fellow could not hold gainful employment despite his advanced engineering degree, since none of the companies would hire an ex-convict. Thus he became embroiled in intrigue and eventually donned the Antman costume.
The plight of the protagonist brought to mind one of my favorite characters from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Jean Valjean could not find gainful employment as an ex-con, either. Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption also explored the difficulties of reintroduction into society after incarceration. Even though they served the required time for their infractions, society withheld trust and confidence from the released prisoner.
On “National Dog Appreciation Day,” the Pittsburgh Steelers announced their signing of free agent Michael Vick to a one year contract. The irony of the timing struck me as I stroked our Lab mix’s fur. I even posted my dismay on my Facebook page. Michael Vick served time for cruelty to dogs, dog fighting, and killing the pit bulls in his care. A video of him smiling as he killed one unfortunate canine circulated social media outlets. Michael Vick spent 21 months of his 23 month sentence in federal prison, and the NFL penalized him.
When the Steelers made the announcement of their new backup quarterback, I felt sick. Michael Vick a Steeler? Although I’m not a huge sports fan (I can hear the collective gasp from my neighbors by this admission, but it is the truth), Pittsburghers adore their sports stars. We embrace them as our own family. How could the Rooneys condone such an interloper? How could Coach Tomlin think this a good idea?
Then I realized my own hypocrisy. Michael Vick served his prison term. He may even suffer from guilt, and if I am Pollyanna-ing again by ascribing to him a conscience in the matter, some day Mr. Vick will answer to a higher judge. Who am I to deny him a means to earn a living?
After his release, Michael Vick played for Philadelphia. His teammates there voted him the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award. He worked to get the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act passed in Congress, and he now works with the Humane Society.
Many good souls have fallen afoul of the law and emerged better people for the experience. I hope for the best for Michael Vick and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I pray that my own judgmental attitudes will evolve closer to grace.
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