July 27, 2007
Vick, Benoit, Tillman, Iraq

Where’s the outrage? Pointed in the wrong direction, to allow us to acquit ourselves of participatory guilt.

Everywhere you look there’s outrage at the accusations against Michael Vick for running a dog-fighting ring. With good reason; the fighting alone is a disgusting thing, not to mention the gruesome executions. But I don’t really understand why people are surprised, or why it’s such a big deal.

Compared, say, to Chris Benoit’s murder of his wife and child, quite clearly a product of the same chemically-induced rage that Vick and his fellow scumbags sought a release for.

Or to the accusations that Pat Tillman was killed intentionally by comrades, shot three times in the forehead with an M-16 from ten yards away.

Or to the deaths of about a million Iraqis, and the torture of who knows how many others.

In my book, people are more important than dogs. I expect I’ll be accused of speciesism, but there it is. Hell, I may as well go all the way and declare that I believe war is more important than wrestling (especially fake wrestling), and, God help my future book sales, even football.

But it’s easier to direct one’s inner rage against a target like Vick. Especially given the sensitive nature of the steroid issue right now, and the approach by Bondsy Barr to hallows everyone knows he didn’t earn and doesn’t deserve, the official records of which should in my opinion be erased, not asterisked (at least his chemically-induced rage hasn’t killed anyone, as far as I know). Benoit, after all, has the benefit of being dead.

Just as with the war in Vietnam, and for the same reasons, Americans have a lot of inner rage right now. A lot of it comes from inner conflict, very especially among those who found some reason to support the war. It’s not just the right-wing warmongers who feel this; liberal interventionists like George Packer are still struggling to resolve the contradictions in their positions without having to admit they were wrong morally, wrong legally, and wrong realpolitik-wise.

Given all those inner conflicts, plus the constant drumbeat of distraction from the media, it’s not surprising that people look for scapegoats, and focus on things that don’t really matter to the exclusion of things that do.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at July 27, 2007 09:33 PM
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You and Keith Olbermann, honestly! Bonds was a great home run hitter long before steroids or human growth hormones---unlike a great many other baseball players and other athletes. Just because he doesn't go out of his way to be winsome and curry favor with sportswriters and fans, he's bearing the brunt of the accusations.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on July 27, 2007 10:24 PM

Has nothing to do with Bonds being a jerk. Lots of great athletes are jerks, e.g. Pete Rose, Kobe Bryant, and so on ad infinitum, and while I despise them personally for that trait it doesn't change my evaluation of their talents or contributions.

Barry's problem is blatantly cheating, and the obvious fact that he would not be breaking Aaron's record had he not cheated. Plus the fact that for him the game is about him, the team be damned. Who singlehandedly lost the World Series on a bone-headed paying-no-attention fielding play? He only pays attention when he's centered in the TV screen.

His talent was immense, though not as immense as it now seems given his steroid use. If he played with half the commitment his father always exhibited, he'd be a contender for greatest player ever. In reality, he's a lazy, cheating, selfish, harmful player to have on your team.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on July 27, 2007 11:01 PM

I suppose you read the goddamned San Francisco Chronicle this past week, in which large numbers of people were quoted as feeling sorry for two vicious coyotes recently shot by Fish and Game officials in Golden Gate Park, but almost nobody seemed to sympathize with real live homeless human beings living in the same park, who were instead vilified as druggies, layabouts, creators of disorder, etc. (Who the hell do they think gives San Francisco such a wonderful recycling record if not all those purportedly shiftless homeless people muscling heavy carts full of cans and bottles across town every everloving day?)

I also saw a bumpersticker today in San Francisco: "Don't Buy Or Breed While Homeless Animals Die." Yeah, what about homeless humans? Personally I think we should *all* stop breeding until everyone who's already born gets to live indoors, and so there.

/M

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 27, 2007 11:08 PM

Unlike you apparently, I have a vast reservoir of outrage, nearly unlimited in fact. Vick, Bonds, Bush, Cheney, Rasmussen, Gonzalez, Tillman's killers and coveruppers, etc., et.al. Outrage over one does not, most definitely, reduce the outrage over the others. Sorry i can't loan you some.

Posted by: markg on July 28, 2007 12:43 AM

You're lucky. I can't run on anger any more, or not most of the time -- it burns dirty.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 28, 2007 2:32 AM

I love coyotes more than I should, I give money unasked to the homeless in Golden Gate Park. I would pay good money to see coyotes dismember the decider and Bonds should do more drugs.

Posted by: jG on July 28, 2007 9:52 AM

Oh, I'm rooting for the coyotes too, tho I'd rather they didn't dismember anybody. I just wish people here would root for their fellow human beings as energetically as they root for coyotes.

E.g., there was nothing in the Chron about the obvious danger that the coyotes who attacked dogs being walked in the daytime might also hurt people sleeping in the park and/or their dogs. I know one particular sweet and graceful pit/lab who has lived in the park with her two devoted owners on past occasions. It would be sad to think of anything happening to them.

---

Getting back to George Packer, he's puzzling. The man is a phenomenal Orwell fan's Orwell fan. How can he fail to see that the Iraq occupation is colonial, not humanitarian? Or do you mean he has figured that out but he's still trying to justify his past views?

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 28, 2007 2:09 PM

Yeah, it's weird about Packer.

I didn't know he had a link to Orwell, I've only read him in The New Yorker in the last two or three years, plus Assassin's Gate. He seems to me an excellent writer with a good eye for the telling detail. His stories about the man from Kansas or thereabouts whose son was killed in Iraq were heartrending but not at all maudlin or even particularly teary. He understood why the guy was having trouble dealing with the loss of his son. If I remember correctly he wasn't that hot on his son going, to begin with, and he kinda felt robbed. His ex-wife was a church-and-flag type, and they didn't relate to each others' grieving methods at all. One need not agree with many, or in some cases any, of these folks' philosophies and life choices to feel for them.

I never really got whether Packer saw this man as a metaphor for himself and his struggle over the disaster the war has produced, but I sure did. I'm a few months behind on my TNY's, so I'm not sure what he might have said recently. In the book he explained how he felt before the war, and how that changed over time, but I didn't get the sense that he was repudiating his old views so much as that he couldn't understand how his views could have led to such a disaster. To his great credit, in my opinion, he felt some personal responsibility for the terrible stuff that's happened. I kinda took the book as a diary of his journey from war support to horror and disillusionment. He's struggling to put together a coherent big picture.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on July 28, 2007 10:45 PM

Or perhaps I should have said a more useful predictor of events, since coherence is not really the issue.

I can't help using the "coherent" mis-statement as an excuse for one of my favorites from Bertrand Russell.

No one has yet succeeded in inventing a philosophy at once credible and self-consistent. Locke aimed at credibility, and achieved it at the expense of consistency. Most of the great philosophers have done the opposite. A philosophy which is not self-consistent cannot be wholly true, but a philosophy which is self-consistent can very well be wholly false. The most fruitful philosophies have contained glaring inconsistencies, but for that very reason have been partially true. There is no reason to suppose that a self-consistent system contains more truth than one which, like Locke's, is obviously more or less wrong.
Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on July 28, 2007 11:51 PM

A few years ago in a symposium at Stanford, Packer gave a long description of his "Zen-like apprenticeship" to Orwell's works after a demoralizing return from Peace Corps service in Africa. See http://groups.google.com/group/alt.books.george-orwell/msg/578b7bbbac48eacf

From his semiautobiographical *Blood of the Liberals*, I wonder if he's politically influenced by loyalty to his father, a Stanford administrator and McCarthy-era civil libertarian who became one of the university's hardest-hit flak-catchers during the 1960s student unrest.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 29, 2007 1:24 AM

I still can't see how any thoughtful person could have thought invading Iraq was a good idea, from any standpoint.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on July 31, 2007 7:27 AM

My impression is that Packer is a good heart but a soft mind.

The whole wimpy-liberal thing is the biggest problem we face in the US today. Mainly, there's so many of them. They're far more numerous than conservatives. If they'd stop meeting the radical right half-way, the country would return to its natural political lineups.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on August 1, 2007 7:48 PM

I'm not sure "wimpy" is the word, unless in the sense of easily pressured. A lot of the trouble is with people who would rather act decently but who feel obligated to override their better natures by imitating someone else's idea of toughness.

Not Packer, btw. I don't think he is soft-minded at all, just maybe too strongly rooted in an earlier era of U.S. history when our foreign policy was not so fundamentally wrongheaded.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on August 3, 2007 12:48 AM
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