A Sense of Shame

2009 August 19
by Lizzzzzz

Gail Collins and Ross Douthat have been doing a feature in an NY Times blog where they both weigh in on a specific issue. This one features their opinions of the hiring of Michael Vick by the Eagles and the subsequent outrage. Michael Vick served time in jail for his crime of supporting a dog fighting ring and will be making speeches for The Humane Society denouncing this behavior. He is now resuming his career as a professional football player.

I would just like to let everyone know right now — I am not a dog lover. I do not want a dog in my house nor do I want the massive number of NYC dog owners letting their dogs near me. As far as animals in general go, I am not a vegetarian because I love animals. I don’t want animals to suffer, and I disapprove of factory farming which is cruel to animals, but that is not the main reason I abstain from meat.

I highly recommend reading the article I linked to above. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:

1) Violence is always wrong, and it exists on a spectrum. Being cruel to a dog in my opinion is not equal to being cruel to a woman, but these actions are certainly related and both are wrong. Ross Douthat brings up that he would rather kill a thousand pigs than harm a single human, and I think he’s right. Luckily, I don’t think any of us will ever be faced with that dilemma. Not harming pigs and not harming humans will rarely be in opposition to each other.

2) But, what if we need to kill pigs so that humans can eat? The truth is that we can feed humans much more efficiently if we¬† don’t waste a lot of water, food, and other resources raising pigs for human consumption. On small farms, a few pigs can eat scraps of food that humans don’t want and later provide meat to humans. I don’t really see a problem with this, since those few pigs can be treated well while they are alive and killed in a painless way.

3) Douthat has some great insights about shame. I wish it were so shameful for someone to sexually assault another person that they would never be able to do anything normal in society ever again because other people would think they were so disgusting. But one reason this isn’t true is the sensitive nature of abuse. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are invisible because we are ashamed of the very subjects. This works great for abusers because instead of denouncing them, we would just rather not talk about it. It seems like it’s easier to be outraged by someone who abuses dogs because at least it’s not embarrassing to discuss it.

4) The Michael Vick case is mixed up with the issue of professional athletes and how much they get paid. I do not agree that football players should be paid millions of dollars, but I do believe that someone who spends time in jail and does not violate their parole should be able to return to their job. The outrage over this tells us (once again) the criminal justice system is broken. People apparently don’t think going to jail rehabilitated Michael Vick, so how do we expect incarceration to help other criminals pay for what they’ve done? In the past few years, I have been thinking deeply about what it means to “punish” people (kids, criminals, etc.), and what is supposed to happen after “punishment” is over. I really have no easy conclusions to draw, so I won’t draw any here.

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