Up in arms

I’m not much of a pro football fan. I live in LA. We don’t have a team. Yet I can’t escape it. All around me, friends are giddy with the start of preseason play. Today, I heard virtual jaws drop on Twitter, Facebook and blogs as news broke that the Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick.

Most of the reaction I’ve read so far was from people who are glad Vick is getting a second chance. They readily admit that running a dog fighting ring is deplorable and he deserved to spend 23 months in prison. Now that he’s served his time, they say, he should be able to get on with his life. The football fans like blackink and GD at PostBourgie discuss what Vick will add to the Eagles’ offense. (By the way, PB is up for a well-deserved blog award, support them!)

Of course many are upset and openly express their belief that the Eagles made a bad decision. They won’t support the team. Their new favorite team is whoever is playing the Eagles, etc.

Understandable. I like dogs too. I don’t want to see them mistreated, beaten, shocked and forced to fight ’til the death. I covered my eyes during the dog fighting scenes in Amores Perros too.

While I’m not cheering on the Eagles and Vick, I’m not mad.

I’m more confused about those who can be up in arms over Vick, but did little when it came to Luis Ramirez.

Last year, Ramirez was beaten by four white teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in what many believe to be a hate crime. The beating left him in a coma and two days later he died. Two of the teens, Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, were charged with third-degree murder (only Piekarsky), aggravated assault (only Donchak) ethnic intimidation and other counts in adult court. Two others were charged with similar counts excluding the more serious charges.

Well before the trial ended in May, Crystal Dillman, the fiancé and mother of Ramirez’s two children, said:

“I think they might get off, … because Luis was an illegal Mexican and these are ‘all-American boys’ on the football team who get good grades, or whatever they’re saying about them. They’ll find some way to let them go.” [NYT]

Unfortunately, she was right.

In May, an all white jury acquitted Piekarsky and Donchak of all serious charges. Instead, they were only charged with a misdemeanor, simple assault.

The news angered Chicano and Latino activists who had hoped for justice. MALDEF organized a petition to get federal hate crime charges brought against the men responsible for Ramirez’s death. Others spoke about the rise in hate crimes against Latinos in recent years and worried that there would be more. And there were. Nine-year old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, were killed on May 30th in their southern Arizona home by a leader of the <a href="Minutemen American Defense and two others.

In July, Piekarsky and Donchak were sentenced to 7 to 23 months for the “simple assault” that left Luis Ramirez in a coma for two days before he died. The judge noted that he was limited in sentencing by the jury’s verdict.

That news made me feel sick to my stomach.

Piekarsky and Donchak are serving 7 to 23 months for beating a Mexican man to death. I wonder if they’ll serve less than Vick’s 23 months.

And when they’re released, get jobs, go to college and go on with their lives, will there be an outcry of anger?


4 thoughts on “Up in arms

  1. I have this theory: the wealthier a country, the less children and more cats/dogs it has. But because having children is such a fundamental part of evolution and especially womens DNA, cats and dogs start to fill the emotional void left by a childless society. Show me an older single woman with no children, and I will show you a women with alot of cats (or dogs, or pets in general). These dogs and cats then represent, psychologically, their “children” and anything done to them is tantamount to doing it to ones child. And so you get a larger focus on animal rights and punishment for animal cruelty than crimes against humans.

    Personally, I never thought Michael Vick deserved any time in prison. I was against it for two reasons: Severity of the crime and efficiency. I don’t know for sure, but I strongly suspect that Michael Vick grew up in an environment where dog fighting is not even questioned as a moral wrong. I know in Compton it certainly wasn’t. The house my mom bought in Compton, when we first moved in, had cages in the backyard that held pit bulls – the previous owner was a well known pit bull fighter. I bet most people in Compton see the Michael Vick punishment as pure racism…after all, how could you punish someone so harshly over dogs?

    Don’t get me wrong, I support a law against dog fighting, but I don’t think it should carry such a harsh sentence. These are, after all, dogs, not humans. Any law against dog fighting should be less harsh, significantly less harsh, than any law against human cruelty.

    On the efficiency argument, as a general rule, I think it’s bad policy to lock up people who are not a threat to society. Instead, they should be fined harshly. Banning Michael Vick from the NFL for some defined amount of time and fining him for some percentage of his income would have been punishment enough, anything more than that was overkill, IMHO, and had more than a taint of cultural racism.

  2. i personally think that vick got off easy. so did the two boys that killed Luis Ramirez, and i wouldn’t be surprised if they get shortened sentences for ‘good conduct’ or some other bs.

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