“I think we are a forgiving people and a sports-loving people,” Lapchick said. “We have the potential to forgive a lot of athletes who do stupid things, or at least the sports they play.”It's perhaps one of the more valuable criminal prosecutions in recent memory, as it has provided an unambiguous signal throughout American society regarding public sentiment for a crime about which there was otherwise much ambiguity. I take as the main evidence of ambiguity that companies with which Vick had endorsement deals at first weren't sure how to handle the situation, and now they can't get far enough away from him. I'm usually skeptical of the deterrent effect of "make an example of him" prosecutions, but I conjecture that this will have a real deterrent effect on dogfighting going forward.
But, he added, “I don’t think society is going to forgive Michael Vick, unless the charges prove wrong.”
I do think it's interesting that there are all kinds of ways that a football player could murder someone and have a much greater chance for public redemption than Michael Vick has. I think what makes the Vick crime so hard to imagine forgiveness is not just how much people love their dogs, but the way the scope and duration of the operation he bankrolled seems to bespeak a fundamental rottenness of core character, not the kind of thing to be resolved with a tearful televised apology or some anger management classes. Or jail time, I suspect.
Also: speaking of crimes that are unquestionably "bad" but ambiguous exactly "how bad" in the eyes of society, word from Madison a few weeks ago was that the neighbor of a friend of mine was arrested for having secretly videotaped himself having sex with women he was dating over the past five years (with no intent to distribute; the tapes were found in connection with a police search for other reasons). I think he was a graduate student--just so we're clear, not in sociology--and, according to the news story, he certainly gave the arresting officers a graduate student-ly explanation of his actions:
"It's funny, I never thought about asking anybody (for permission)," the complaint says he told police. "It stems from a sense of impermanence of relationships. ... I have the feeling like they aren't going to last. It lends itself to making the videotapes. The emotional need I have is to have a record."(And saving letters and gifts apparently just wasn't enough.) His court date was set for July 30, but there hasn't been any follow-up story in the paper about what happened. I wanted to see what kind of punishment somebody would get for this crime, as I'll admit I genuinely don't know what I think an appropriate sentence would be. Interestingly, the maximum possible sentence for his crime is a jail sentence nine times longer than the maximum sentence possible for Michael Vick (45 years versus 6).