If the Michael Vick case has taught us anything, it's this: In America these days, killing a dog is worse than killing a person.
Compare Vick's situation to that of another well-known professional athlete, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth. For killing a pedestrian while driving under the influence, Stallworth served 24 days in prison. Vick got two years for his involvement in a dogfighting ring and the death of several pit bulls.
No one is excusing what Vick did. Personally, I was disgusted at the general thuggishness of his behavior and his callous disregard for life. But wasn't Stallworth at least equally callous when he got behind the wheel with his blood alcohol level well over the legal limit?
Another curious aspect of the Vick case is that the usual assortment of race-baiters and bleeding hearts have been so silent. Normally, when a young black man from Vick's socioeconomic background is accused of a high profile crime, we hear loud protestations of racism and endless lectures on why society is actually to blame.
Where are those voices defending Michael Vick? You'd think he'd be the poster child for social victimhood: born to impoverished, unmarried teenagers, raised in a crime-infested housing project. Even his specific offense - dog fighting - is, by his own account, an integral part of the culture in which he grew up.
Surely, if societal factors are responsible for anyone's incarceration, that person would be Michael Vick.
And yet he gets no slack even from the media's most liberal talking heads, nor from self-appointed "civil rights" leaders. (Anyone heard Keith Olbermann defending him, for instance? Or Al Sharpton?) I think we have to ask ourselves why. Could it be simply that he made the mistake of killing dogs instead of humans?
In other words, could it be that aboard the American Left's big pink bus even the bleeding hearts and race baiters take a back seat to the "animal rights" activists? Apparently word that Vick is untouchable has come down from PETA and the SPCA. Not even the normally intrepid (audacious?) Sharpton dares to go near him.
If I'm correct, if the far left has succeeded in convincing us that animals are more important than people, I think that bodes ill for our society. Because then it follows logically that people are no better than animals. Not made in the image of God. Not ultimately responsible for their own actions. Merely possessed of opposable thumbs.
Personally, I believe human beings are a little higher than the animals and therefore capable of redemption. Michael Vick has paid his debt to society, is unlikely to repeat his crimes, and deserves a chance to resume his career as an NFL quarterback. But if that doesn't pan out, I suppose he could try some other way to rehabilitate himself that might satisfy his haters on the left.
Like maybe becoming a drunk-driving wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns.
Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.