Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


'Go and sin no more'

Q: After serving prison time for running a dogfighting operation, Michael Vick has come back stronger than ever -- as a football star, and, some would say, as a man. Do you think Vick has succeeded in redeeming himself? If so, how much does his artistry on the gridiron and our love of the comeback/redemption narrative to have to do with it?

The history of man's relationship with the dog goes back to when we were nomads and cave dwellers. As we hunted animals for food, packs of wolves wandered nearby, doing the same exact thing.

Eventually, people began feeding these wild dogs and they starting to join the roving clans, helping to chase down game and protecting their human friends. This narrative is generally accepted as the genesis of our love affair with the dog that has continued for a very long time, with some evidence of our friendship going back 14,000 years.

A canine is an animal with which most people easily bond. They are loyal, amusing and lovable. They will usually try to sleep in your bed. They will automatically take a bullet meant for you if a crazed gunman shows up at your home.

Dogs are used for many reasons related to the psychological well being of the human species. Some psychotherapists keep a dog in their office. A calm, well-behaved canine can help their patients relax as they explore their painful problems.

Read a book by Jay Kopelman called From Baghdad to America: Life Lessons from a Dog Named Lava. This will remove all doubt about how a dog can bring life to a veteran troubled by war trauma. More dogs are entering the lives of military veterans helping them to re adjust. It is clear that the companionship of a dog can do a great deal for a returning veteran. They are also a great way of meeting people -- a dog gives strangers a license to strike up a conversation.

How about a guy like Michael Vick who used dogs for the disgusting sport of fighting and maiming each other? In August 2007, he pleaded guilty to federal charges and then served 21 months in prison. He filed for bankruptcy in July 2008. The multimillionaire sports hero lost his fortune, was humiliated in front of the world and was confined to a most appropriate place -- a federal penitentiary.

We all should believe in redemption. I remember a Bible story. When a woman was about to be stoned to death, Jesus appeared on the scene. He told those gathered to find a person in the crowd who had not sinned to cast the first stone. The crowd, ashamed of itself, left. ( Crowds still gather in some countries to stone adulterous women, which I find astonishing.)

Jesus allegedly told the accused adultress, " Go and sin no more." Great advice.

Society's message to Michael Vick should be "Go and sin no more." He has done some good work since his release from prison beyond being a very gifted quarterback. He speaks from the heart when he tells groups of young people that dog fighting is cruel and how much he regrets the pain he caused to what can be very kind and loving animals. Pit bulls are as nice -- or as mean -- as their owners make them.

Vick does some public speaking and other work for the Humane Society. He is, at his core, a good person from humble origins in a housing project in Virginia. He has paid the price -- by serving time -- for his crime.

We all make mistakes. Let us not cast stones. The good he will do will out weigh his past transgressions. Vick has shown the capability and interest in doing good for people and for the animals who bring such solace and pleasure in our lives.

By Jan Scruggs  |  November 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The comeback Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

I think you're wrong about Vick, he is at his core a bad person.

I am not without sin, but I am without the sin of torturing animals and so I'll cast all the stones I want.

Posted by: oxhead1 | November 22, 2010 1:13 PM
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