Tuesday, August 18, 2009
One Thing I Know
One of the people I have loved most was ignorant. He was also sharp as a skinning blade. He had a heart as big as the wide open sea and would (and did) do absolutely anything for his loved ones. He rarely met a racist joke he didn’t like. He never let a family member down. He laughed so hard and so long over the things that tickled him that he frequently lost his breath and had to wheeze it out. He saw humor in almost everything. He was frequently politically incorrect.
He worked incredibly long hours, very hard, with his hands … a carpenter year-round, and a tuna fisherman during season; he also plowed and sanded the streets of MA in the Winter. He could do almost anything, even when he had to fake it until he knew how to get it right. His home was always open, and you were welcome. If you stepped within his first action was an attempt to feed you. He was a great lover of animals, and was surrounded by them. He was one to leer at the ladies. He adored his wife, and was startled by the affection he felt for his children. He was a great, big, blustery man who would have put you in mind of a young Santa during the off season.
He was game for anything. He could be silent and still as the dawn. He was my very first real-life example of “work hard, play harder”. He enjoyed life to the fullest and never thought the party would end. Could end. He seldom met a man he didn’t like. He was as bewildered by folk who didn’t care for him as he was by unforeseen catastrophe.
He was very much a product of his environment; raised by a quiet man and a stubborn woman who had survived the turmoil of the Great Depression and worked side-by-side at the businesses they owned.
When I say he was ignorant I do not mean in the barbarian way … I mean in the uneducated way. And by uneducated I mean inexperienced in life or lifestyles outside his social class (for lack of a better phrase), not book-learning. Although he’d be the first to admit he was no Rhodes Scholar. When life gave him lemons he made a lemon smorgasbord and invited everyone he knew to share in the meal: lemonade, lemon chicken, lemon brioche, chilled lemon soup, lemon scones with lemon curd, lemon custard, lemon meringue pie, lemon drops, lemon relish … you get the picture. He didn’t let the bastards get him down.
So, why am I telling you this?
I want to talk about Michael Vick. And how he’s been picked up by the Eagles. And how half the world is having a field day. I say leave him be. He truly seems appalled at his participation in what many, myself included, consider a barbarous crime. He appears to ‘get it’. He also grew up in an environment where that behavior was the norm; where the dogs were considered a commodity, not pets. I, who slobber all kinds of love and affection (and treats, and cookies, and catnip, and toys, etc.) on my four legged friends, view them individually not really as ‘pets’, but rather as family members. Always have, always will. I know their personality quirks. I can tell when something is wrong (witness our current Froggy Bop dilemma). I get a kick out of having them around. I also grew up in a household, family, and community that considered pets members of the family, albeit slightly dim yet highly lovable members.
And guess what? Where Vick grew up? That was right here in the good old U. S. of A. Where were our tantrums and holier-than-thou attitudes then? Its one thing when a man hides behind his job and refuses to accept responsibility for the results of his actions … I’m talking to you, Jack Tatum … and quite another when a man steps up to the plate and lays it all out there, trying to make amends and to educate the next generation. Bravo! Bravo to you, sir. And keep up the good work.
The art of forgiveness is difficult, sometimes brutal, but necessary to a healthy soul. Do you think if Michael Vick knew three years ago what he knows now that he’d have made the same choices? I don’t.
After knowing my ‘ignoramus’, a great man who’d give you the shirt off his back in a raging blizzard yet spout racial obscenities about a minority who angered him (and no, he wouldn't have been angered by the fact that the person was a minority; it's that if they were a minoruty he would 'go there'), I simply cannot justify a knee-jerk black-&-white response to Vick. I’d not be able to tolerate it in those responding to the words or actions of my own taught-by-life ignorant. What are we, twelve? It may not be fair, but then again neither is life. Vick made a mistake. He’s sorry. He’s trying to make a positive out of it. He’s lost much of what he had built. He’s got every right to live his life, and to utilize his skills to do so.
I say leave him be.