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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Michael Vick in Perspective

I wonder about several things when it comes to the unfortunate events surrounding Michael Vick: If he were accused of involvement in the recent cockfighting ring discovered in Florida instead of his current woes, would there be near the uproar? If he had a Super Bowl victory or two under his belt, would there be calls for the Falcons to cut all ties with him? Where were all the questions about his character and calls for his release or suspension when he was accused of sexual misconduct posing as “Ron Mexico”? It’s almost as if he has been indicted for murder.

Don’t laugh. I heard more than one ESPN radio commentator recently say, in effect, that in many people’s minds what Vick is accused of is worse than if he had killed a human being. What a sad indictment on our culture.

In the year 2000 Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis, along with two of his “friends,” were indicted for killing a human being (actually two of them). The murder charges against him were later dropped and he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. In 2004 Lewis settled civil suits filed by the murdered victims’ families. One family, according to the Baltimore Sun, received at least $1 million.

Through all of this, Ray Lewis was never suspended by the NFL (though he did pay a record $250,000 fine). I don’t remember there even being many (if any) calls for the league to do so. I don’t recall protests in front of the NFL offices or at the Ravens’ facilities. Then again, Ray Lewis was coming off a season where he was the NFL leader in tackles and an All-Pro. (He would lead his team to a Super Bowl victory the following season.)

In 2003, when Kobe Bryant was indicted for rape, I don’t recall the NBA or the Lakers suspending him. I again don’t recall there being much demand by anyone that either do so. Then again, at the time Bryant was a perennial all-star and had several championship rings to his credit. I don’t think Bryant missed a single game due to his legal woes. In fact, a number of times Bryant had to be in court inColorado during the day, then immediately would fly to another part of the country to play in the Lakers' game that night.

If you believe, as I do, that the worst parts of the indictment against Vick are the gambling charges, then consider for a moment Michael Jordan. Jordan was no stranger to gambling, as he has admitted to losing hundreds of thousands of dollars (some have speculated that it was many millions) in shady gambling activities.

The NBA “investigated” him more than once, and though some think his first “retirement” was forced, he was never officially disciplined by the NBA or the Chicago Bulls. There was never much of an outcry by the media or the fans against Jordan. Of course, it almost goes without saying what Jordan meant to his fans, his team, his league and his sponsors. Mostly he meant hundreds of millions of dollars. No one wanted to see him go the way of Pete Rose.

Then there are the numerous athletes who, though not accused of criminal actions, at least have displayed behaviors that would cause many to call into question their character.

Tom Brady has fathered a child out of wedlock and is no longer in a relationship with the mother. Chipper Jones committed adultery and fathered a child out of wedlock. (I could go on and on with this list.) Where were the calls for their respective teams to suspend them or release them?

Amanda Beard, an Olympic swimmer with seven medals to her credit, including the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke, posed nude for Playboy recently. Do you think the U.S.A. Olympic committee, or most American fans, will have a problem with her representing our country in her sport again, as she aims to do?

You can tell much about people by what outrages or shames them. Would you be more ashamed if your grandfather had been involved in cockfighting or the KKK? Would you rather have your son shoot his neighbor’s dog or commit adultery with his neighbor’s wife? Would you prefer to have your daughter caught at a dogfight or pose nude in a magazine? Which behavior would alarm you more? Which behavior has more lasting consequences?

Because other athletes have been given a pass by their league, the media, and their fans is no reason that Michael Vick should. If he is found guilty of breaking the law, then let justice be done. If he is guilty of poor judgment, then there should be just consequences in that case as well. It seems to me, however, that the fury directed against him now is a bit overblown.

Copyright 2007, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day: July 2 or July 4?

On July 1, 1776 delegates of the Second Continental Congress entered what John Adams called, “the greatest debate of all.” Even after over a year’s worth of conflict against the mightiest military force on earth, declared independence from Great Britain was far from a forgone conclusion. Just weeks earlier the majority of the men in the Congress were very much hoping that some formula for peace could be found with Great Britain.

In The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, it’s noted that these Congressmen knew very well what it would cost them personally to, “cast their votes with those few who were advocating an open declaration of independence. For the men who signed such a declaration would, in the likely event of America’s defeat, be held personally responsible. And the penalty for instigating rebellion against the Crown was death.” Declaring independence required a unanimous vote from the Congress, and as Ben Franklin soberly put it, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

During the debate on July 1, John Dickinson, representing Pennsylvania, made powerful and lengthy arguments against declaring independence. With quiet resolve, but equal conviction, Adams answered him concluding with, “All that I have and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration…Independence now, and Independence forever!”

Shortly following this exchange, Congress voted. The majority supported independence, but it was not unanimous as required. Nine of the thirteen colonies were ready to officially declare for freedom and the war necessary to achieve it. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted no. Delaware’s two delegates were split. The New York delegates abstained. Debate was to resume the next day followed by another vote.

On the following day, July 2, the South Carolina delegates, for the sake of unanimity, were swayed to support the Declaration. New Pennsylvania delegates voted for independence. With New York still abstaining, Delaware was the key. Its two delegates remained split. With a dramatic and grueling overnight ride through stormy weather, where often he had to dismount and lead his horse, an exhausted third Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney, entered the State House in Philadelphia around 1:00 p.m., just as the final vote was about to occur. He had come to break the deadlock among his fellow statesmen.

Barely able to speak he exclaimed, “As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my own judgment concurs with them. I vote for independence.” Therefore it was unanimously decided (New York would join with the other colonies officially on July 9th). Thus, The United States was born on July 2, 1776.

The significance of the event and the day was such that, on the following day John Adams wrote his wife Abigail and said that July 2 “will be the most memorable…in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” So according to John Adams, the celebration of our independence is a couple of days late.
It was two days later on July 4 that an official Declaration of Independence document was actually signed, albeit only by two members of Congress: John Hancock, the President of Congress and Charles Thompson the Secretary of Congress. Most of the rest of the Congressmen would sign the Declaration about a month later.

On July 4, 1837, in a speech delivered in the town of Newburyport Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, and the 6th U.S. President, proclaimed, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?” (For the full speech, see my website.)

Witnessing the events of the Revolution as a boy, and then going on to serve his country in many various capacities, John Quincy Adams saw that Christmas and Independence Day were fundamentally linked. He understood well that the Founders simply took the principles that Christ brought to the world and incorporated those into civil government.

That, my friends, is why the United States of America is the greatest nation the world has ever known, even though we may be celebrating its birthday on the wrong date.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World