Society too quick to forgive and forget

by Jim Longworth

Life is all about second chances. That’s why a lot of wives stay married after their husbands cheat on them, and why voters keep electing morally flawed politicians. There are, however, three crimes for which an offender always seems to escape hard time, and from which he never deserves a second chance: child abuse, DWI homicide and animal abuse.

Until recently the Vatican has been notorious for glossing over sexual abuse by priests who would usually receive no punishment, or were just transferred to other parishes. Fortunately the Pope is now cleaning up his act by issuing new guidelines to bishops on how to deal with sex offenders, including recommendations for prevention programs and better screening of priests. Meanwhile communities across America are maintaining sex-offender registries which help to notify parents when a sicko just out of prison moves into their neighborhood. Personally I don’t believe that a child-abuser can be rehabilitated, so my preference would be life in prison for confessed predators, but I’m not holding my breath for that level of reform.

I have also written extensively about people who drive drunk and kill others in the process. For one thing there is no consistent approach to sentencing, even from county to county, so oftentimes the guilty party only receives a light sentence. Several years ago, a local TV anchor went barhopping one night, got sloshed and refused to take a cab home. Instead he decided to drive drunk and his deliberate decision resulted in the death of a pedestrian. The drunk driver served less than two years in jail when he should have been put away for life. But hey, he’s a changed man now, right? And society loves to give a changed man a second chance.

And that brings me to the sickening saga of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick who, together with his buddies, tortured and murdered animals at Vick’s Virginia dog-fighting compound. As with child-abuse and DWI homicide, the penalties for animal abusers are a joke. Even the recent Su sie’s

Law (so named for a Guilford county dog who was tortured) will not deter serial offenders because serious prison time is still not on the table.

For a moment after Vick’s release from his very brief imprisonment, there was a wave of protest about his return to the NFL. Then Vick said he was a changed man. He did all the right things, spoke to youth groups, even got the Humane Society to buy into his act. Last season when Vick returned to the field it was only as a part-time player, and I was encouraged that many sporting goods stores around the country refused to stock his No. 7 jersey. But guess what? This season, Vick is playing great football, and all is forgiven. His jerseys are a big seller once again, his team is winning and TV commentators only mention his past problems in passing, never elaborating on the nature of his heinous crimes. And after his super performance against the Washington Redskins earlier this month, Vick is even being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate. Fortunately

I have a suggestion for how that honor might be quashed. The NFL Commissioner should force broadcasters to show video of the dogs Vick burned and hung every time they show him making a great play on the field. Let’s see how many MVP jerseys he sells then.

To forgive and forget is a nice sentiment, but the problem with our society is we tend to forgive the offender and forget the victims. That’s why until abusers and drunk murderers are given the punishments they really deserve, we must constantly be reminded of what they actually did. Maybe we could come up with a system of scarlet-lettered shirts that former offenders would be required to wear in public for the rest of their lives. Perhaps a letter “A” for animal abuse, a letter “C” for child abuse and, a letter “D” for drunk-driving homicide. Now those are some jerseys I’d love to see in the stores.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).