Tortured Dogs and My Problem with "Forgiveness"

11/17/2011 08:02 am ET

After hearing about NFL quarterback Michael Vick's indictment in connection with a vicious dogfighting ring, I'm reminded how I take issue with many well-respected motivational speakers, past and present -- on at least one topic.

Meaning sometimes I find the idea of "forgiveness" -- when it involves people who commit heinous acts -- to be overrated.

Some of the usual suspects -- Wayne Dyer, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Phil etc. -- came to mind when I read about the dozens of pit bulls who were trained, tortured, tethered to car axles, starved, shot, electrocuted, drowned and subjected to something called a "rape stand" on property owned by Vick in Smithfield, Va.

The dogfighting operation was sponsored by an outfit called "Badnewz Kennels." Vick comes from Newport News, Va. which he calls " a.k.a Badnews" on his website.

If Mike Vick and his three friends are found guilty of the crimes listed in the 19-page indictment -- including one incident where Vick allegedly decided a female pit bull who lost a fight should be killed and his friend "executed the dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal" -- should they also ultimately be forgiven?

I ask this not because I'm a big animal crusader. As Lance Armstrong might say, it's not about the dogs.

But when evil like this is exposed to the light, it raises the specter of evil in general and how it's an inescapable part of life. More for some people, and some animals, than others.

It reminds me of big evils like slavery and the Holocaust, and the small evils that happen every day. And yet in the end, how some of the world's greatest thinkers advocate forgiveness.

Vick, who The Washington Post today called "one of the NFL's most exciting players," so far has denied involvement in the crimes, saying he wasn't aware of what was going on at the property he owned.

But somebody did it. More than one person. And I wonder about them -- people who appear to be "normal," who walk among us, who are perhaps even worshipped and revered, yet blandly commit acts that would shock and repulse the average person.

Whoever tortured these dogs -- what did they eat for breakfast the day the carpets got bloodied at the property in Smithfield? After they wet down the dog and electrocuted her, did they go get a Big Mac? Did they want fries with that? An apple pie?

Did they call their mother just to shoot the breeze after tethering a few dogs with a heavy chain to a car axle? Did they fall naturally into a relaxed slumber after an afternoon spent putting the dogs on a specially modified electric treadmill or forcing them to mate on the rape stand? Or did they take an Ambien?

Wayne Dyer likes to say, "in forgiveness, we find the power to free ourselves from the negativity others create."

Jesus got a lot of mileage out of this one: "Do not resist an evil person, if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other side also."

Dr. Phil made it his Life Law #9 (there are 10), proclaiming simply, "There is power in forgiveness."

They're probably right -- I'm just saying at times like these I've got a big problem with it.

George Dohrmann of points out that there is one line in Tuesday's indictment more likely to cause "rage" than any other: "In or about April of 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

What would Mahatma Gandhi say? Probably this:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible but in the end they always fall. Think of it -- always."

Tell that to the dog who was murdered by being slammed to the ground -- or the one who was first wet, then electrocuted. Oops, it's too late. They're dead.