I watched the 60 minutes interview of Michael Vick last night and I must say I was moved.
Oh, not moved in the way you might think. Its not a matter of whether or not I believe he is sincere in his apology or his desire to make amends for the horrible dog fighting episode. Or that I was particularly excited about his recent signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. I believe that whether or not he means what he says is something that will take time to figure out. And even then some people will judge him by the wrong he committed.
That's actually the thing that moved me...
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How do you determine someones level of contrition? In Vick's case, for instance, isn't the fact that he has, according to the laws of our land, paid his debt to society? If so and the employer in his former chosen profession decides to give him another chance, how is that not enough?
On the other hand - can there be some wrongs done, let alone crimes committed that are so reprehensible that those who have had the opportunity for the public exercise of their talents and gifts, forfeit that right indefinitely - if not forever?
If it is 'the public' that has to forgive, how does that forgiveness express itself? Does that mean that you can no longer make a living doing anything in public? When one squanders opportunity, what level of remorse is sufficient for 'the public' to offer another chance? And what happens if public confidence is dealt another blow by different, or even similar actions?
Let me be clear: I really don't care whether or not Vick plays football again. Its not my call. He doesn't play for my favorite team. Football is a game, an entertainment venue and there are other ways to make a living.
But some people do care and its interesting to listen to or read their comments. Not because they relate to Vick alone, but because they give insight into how we feel about one another. Suffice it to say if Vick were our son, or nephew, many of us would readily forgive and wish him well. For some, if he were a neighbor we'd be more sympathetic. But he is a figure to most of us, a symbol, an image and as such we view him differently.
We 'look' to see contrition, remorse, regret, in his eyes. We listen for tone and examine body language and make our determination in that way. But what are we looking for? And when have we seen it? And to what degree do we make allowances for personality, circumstances, education and culture?
All that being said - I watched a rebroadcast of David Frost's interview with Richard Nixon. There is a question, apparently impromptu, which Frost asked about whether or not Nixon wanted to apologize to the American people for his responsibility and role in the Watergate scandal. Nearly, 35 years after that most dreadful incident, in which the country was brought to the brink of Constitutional crisis (this interview done three years later), its interesting to look at the disgraced President's face as he admitted he'd "...let the American people down."
It is worth watching indeed...
Nixon was paid for the interview.
Does it make his contrition any less real? Does it lesson the enormity of what at least bordered on criminality? Was he truly 'sorry'?
How do we tell?
And, for those of us who have ever been in similar circumstances - how did we get the people we cared about to believe in us again?