Editor’s Note: Comedian/writer/animal activist Elayne Boosler has performed live, on TV and radio for over 40 years. On August 31, Comedy Dynamics will release “Timeless,” a boxed set of her TV specials and her new CD. Catch up at Elayneboosler.com. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. Watch Boosler in season 2 of The “History of Comedy,” Sundays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT). Note: Readers may find some of the language below, offensive.
(CNN) “Comedy” is now the fall guy.
Every time someone gets busted for a horrific statement, he or she suddenly announces: “It was a joke!”
Uh uh. No. You are not going to cloud up our art form with your ill-conceived oral feculence. Read more…
In 1994 Ronald Reagan put Alzheimer’s disease prominently on the front pages. Around that time, my eighty-year-old Aunt Lily began her own slow descent into the same. She was a little Russian immigrant who worked hard in America for sixty-five years. With so few advantages throughout her entire life, leave it to her to still find a way to have the newest thing everybody was talking about.
Until Alzheimer’s claimed Ronald Reagan and actress Rita Hayworth, I didn’t think about it much, except in terms of myself of course: “Oh god oh god please don’t let me get that. Let me still be able to play Jeopardy at dinner when I’m a hundred”. Note: it just took me three tries to spell “Jeopardy”. Oh god oh god… Research says the mind is like a muscle to be exercised. Doing crossword puzzles (I do them!) and using the brain (I use it!) might help prevent dementia. Ancient Cities for two hundred, Alex.
Just plain old senility wasn’t this scary. We weren’t terrified by the image of our grandfather eating quietly at the Seder table. Not much is getting through, but isn’t that because he speaks mainly Russian? By the way, is there a Russian word for “shrimp”? Because our kosher grandfather is unwittingly going to hell courtesy of our sadistic mother. Does he not know it’s shrimp because he’s senile, or because he’s never seen it before? Or because once he escaped the Bolsheviks he forgot people like her existed?
My aunt Lily was a tiny dynamo, who wasn’t even close to coming in for a landing, though now no one was flying the plane. My cousin Harriet took care of her through it all. For her entire life, my aunt “went to business”, as she called it. She was a factory seamstress, bent over a sewing machine all day. At night she took home extra work, then made clothes for my cousin. You could show her a picture in a magazine and she made it for you. She could follow a pattern, a pattern for goodness sake. I can’t fold a map. My ShrimpPusherMother was quick to point out to anyone:
“She really can’t do sleeves”. She made the best cookies on earth. Pink and green button cookies; solid yet crumbly, velvety. Every birthday, they came in the mail.
“When is ya tour finished so I’ll wait ta mail them ta California?” The cookies would arrive cradled in egg cartons, wrapped in two weeks of the Jewish News (crosswords done, oh god oh god..) and twenty plastic bags, in a shoe box, not one cookie broken.
“How can she make cookies like this? They’re incredible.” To which my ShrimpSpoilerMother replied,
“She uses lard.” Second to her cookies was her coleslaw, which I loved. I was performing at the plush and elegant Kravis Center in Palm Beach. Into my dressing room comes the promoter, John Stoll, wearing an impeccable Armani suit. In his manicured hand he holds a huge Tupperware, wrapped in plastic. Milky white juice flows over his Rolex and drips onto his Bally shoes. I smell the finely chopped cabbage and vinegar. He announces,
“Your aunt Lily’s here.” Yes, she was here. Wherever I was, hers was the birthday card that found me. She never forgot. She never forgot anything, this woman who exercised her mind like a muscle. She knew how many stitches it took to make a coat, how many teaspoons of this and tablespoons of that it took to feed the family whose birthdays she never forgot. My faith in Jeopardy begins to wane. What chance do we have?
My nephew’s bar mitzvah was held at an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. My aunt seemed still to be my aunt, dancing every dance. Afterward, back at my brother’s house for sandwiches (because everyone knows you can’t get full in an Italian restaurant), my aunt Lily sat down next to me, and a strange thing happened. She put her hand on my arm, looked seriously into my eyes and without preface, began to tell me her entire life story. Well, what’s a few minutes of my life? I think. And maybe she’ll say something about the lard. I listen to my aunt and I realize I don’t know anything about my family. This is amazing. So Uncle Joe drove a cab and got robbed at gunpoint? My grandmother was a landowner in Kiev and a bootlegger in America? She never got angry if you broke something? What? There’s forgiveness in this family?
After about two hours I had heard the life story of a woman who worked at a time when most women didn’t work, a woman who stood up for herself, who explained to her various slimy bosses that her husband “might be sickly, but if you eva say anything ‘of that nature’ to me again”, he would come down there and punch their lights out. That’s how you handled it back then. Just a little life, like most of ours, and she had just handed it over to me for safe keeping, so she could let it go.
The years pass, I make my usual Sunday call. My cousin asks,
“Can I put her on?” knowing full well my aunt hasn’t responded in years, but,
“Sure”, I say. I try to think of what could engage her memory. I hear my cousin forcefully directing,
“Take the phone, it’s your niece, your niece, take the phone.” Silence, she’s on. I shout. (Why am I shouting? She’s not deaf.)
“Hi aunt Lily. It’s me. I’m in California. It’s hot.” Silence. Who can blame her? People without Alzheimer’s would have no response to that.
“I’m in California. When are you going to make cookies? You make the best cookies in the world.” A shaky little voice,
“I don’t rememba.” In the background I hear my cousin let out a gasp, the good kind.
“Well I do. You’re the world’s best baker. I’m going to come to Florida and give you plenty of notice, so you can start cooking up a storm. Nobody cooks like you.” There. I’ve unfurled the Jewish driftnet: food. I get a bite. Tentative, she says,
“It’s nice when you do things and people talk about it.”
“Yes it is”, I say. “Yes, it is.”
That night I do two jumbo Sunday crossword puzzles before I fall asleep. At five a.m. I wake alone in panic and sit up; to whom will I tell my story?
America has been privileged through the centuries to have had so many First Ladies who made a true difference to the betterment of our country. By fighting racism and sexism, going to war, influencing their husbands to see women as equals, they helped bring about progressive legislation and human rights. We have had so many intelligent, evolved women for young people to look up to and model themselves after. These woman moved the country forward. Of course, some First Ladies do absolutely nothing, wasting the most valuable opportunity imaginable to make positive change in a world that needs it. What a shame. We don’t need First Stepfords when a true original can change the world.
There were so many women in the White House who were our best faces forward. First to come to mind is of course Eleanor Roosevelt, but so many more as well contributed to the betterment of people and country. They did so with their bravery, brains and moral courage. Here are some real women to admire:
Martha Washington (First Lady 1789-1797)
She remained beloved by Revolutionary War veterans, and was publicly known to provide financial support or to intercede on behalf of those among them in need.
Dolly Madison (First Lady 1809-1813)
A patriot in action, not rhetoric. In the hours preceding the burning of Washington by British troops during the War of 1812, she famously refused to leave the White House before being assured that the large portrait of George Washington was removed from the walls and taken safely away from potential destruction by the encroaching enemy.
Sarah Polk (First Lady 1845-1849)
She outlived her husband by about forty years. She had been such a beloved First Lady that during the Civil War, both sides respected her neutrality, and she entertained officers from both armies.
Lucy Hayes said in 1876, “Woman’s mind is as strong as man’s…equal in all things and is superior in some.” After the Civil War started, Lucy wished she could take up arms for her country. She spent a substantial amount of time with her husband in camp with the 23rd Ohio, earning the nickname “Mother of the Regiment”.
Lou Hoover (First Lady 1929-1933) said, “It is very possible to have both a home and a career in this modern age”. She created controversy by eliminating outdated social customs such as the refusal to receive pregnant women at the White House, and by inviting all Congressional wives, including the wife of African-American Congressman Oscar DePriest from Chicago, to the White House. For that she was highly criticized, but never regretted her decision.
Mamie Eisenhower in 1953 strongly campaigned to invite African-American opera singer Marian Anderson to perform at the inauguration. She also made sure her African American staff had accomodations in still segregated Washington, and were welcomed at all the Inaugural events.
Lady Bird Johnson’s accomplishments read more like a successful presidents tenure in office. She toiled for integration, campaigning without her husband through the south, where she was spit on by segregationist protesters and hit with a picket sign, and she never flagged in her dedication to equality. She raised the profile of women in education, politics and public life. She raised the President’s consciousness on the equal competence of women in public service and influenced his efforts to advance women. She said, “If you achieve the precious balance between a woman’s domestic and civic life, you can do more for zest and sanity in our society than by any other achievement…” She got project Head Start off the ground. She introduced “Beautification,” an umbrella title for a wide variety of efforts, legislation and public campaigns that were a combination of rural and urban environmentalism, national parks conservation, anti-pollution measures, water and air reclamation, landscaping and urban renewal.
Jackie Kennedy showed the world America had a brilliant, educated and thoughtful First Lady, back when education was valued instead of derided by people who think wallowing in ignorance makes them patriotic, and calling people who like to think and learn “elites”. She traveled abroad and spoke to leaders in their own languages. She campaigned abroad for American textiles and industry. She brought the fine arts to Washington, and made culture accessible and available. She restored the White House. Knowing she couldn’t ask congress for the restoration money it would take, she looked at how many people toured the White House every day, designed a little booklet of White House information and history, and put a dollar price tag on it. With this simple idea, she raised millions to restore the White House and its historical artifacts.
Hillary Clinton was a beacon of intelligence and modern ideas. Her health care plan was brilliant, just ahead of its time. Yet she did manage to get the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed, covering more than eight million children. She championed the Violence Against Women act, the Adoption and Safe Families act, the Foster Care Independence act, and so much more. You can’t be controversial if you aren’t rocking the boat, working for change, shaking up the old ideas and trying to bring the world forward. As First Lady she was a great ambassador to the world, showing what American women were made of and what we could achieve. She raised a brilliant and successful daughter in the White House, a feat in itself. She made America proud.
Michelle Obama, the first African American First Lady, was a paragon of grace under pressure, and composure in the face of racism and ignorance. She was the Jackie Robinson of First Ladies, and despite the pressures on her every day, she carved out a magnificent legacy. With two Ivy League degrees, she launched Let’s Move! to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity. She got congress to pass the School Lunch Program, making sure children didn’t go hungry, and putting healthier foods in schools while also educating parents. She worked with the US Tennis Association to build/refurbish more than 6,200 junior tennis courts and sign up 250,000 kids to complete their PALAs, and train 12,000 coaches to help kids learn the sport of tennis. She worked tirelessly to make America better for all. She also raised two lovely daughters in a loving marriage, a role model indeed.
Right now the First Lady role is a vacuum. What a sad waste. Here’s hoping our next First Lady, whoever she may be, or our First Gentleman for that matter, values messages over massages, actions over infractions, “we first” over “me first”, paving the way over wasting the day. You’re not supposed to drop the mic until after you’ve said something.
Here’s a joke I posted on twitter yesterday, and while a lot of people liked it (got it), it also made a lot of people angry:
Crap! My friend and I just got arrested and thrown out of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles because we were waiting for another friend and hadn’t yet bought anything. Thanks Starbucks! #TuesdayThoughts
I don’t explain the jokes. If they miss, they miss and I move on. It’s never been that big a deal. This is. For the angry tweeters who think I’m no different than Trump eating a taco bowl and proclaiming he loves the Mexican people, they don’t know me. These are the times we live in; we hold on to anger and outrage in this unjust, frightening, and dangerous climate, though it will beat you if you don’t choose your enemies better. For the guy who tweeted, “I can’t wait to hear her insincere apology”, this isn’t that, sincere or insincere. Making people upset or angry is the opposite of my mission statement of making people think and laugh. A great comic taught me, “Never complain, never explain”. He’s right. Twitter will find something new to be angry about today and go after that. I could just shut up and wait. But, my work has been comedy, both written and performed, all my life. If I missed the mark, for me it’s important to look at. And I want to honor the kinder hearted but wary souls who tweeted things like, “Can you explain this joke to me?” “Bleh.” “Nope.” “Wow. I find you incredibly funny. Have for many years and still do. Even taking my personal history and ethnicity out of the equation, I don’t see how this is funny.”
So, if I had done this joke from the stage, no one there would have suddenly decided I was the devil, because anyone coming to see me would have already known me, my work, my politics. If they didn’t, a ninety minute show would have made it clear. I looked carefully at the “Likes” it got on twitter. They came from people who already followed me, who “knew” me, who got where I was going and where I was coming from. I couldn’t find one publicly declared “MAGA” supporter, confederate flag avatar, or proudly declared racist among them. Then I looked at the people who tweeted “What the fuck is wrong with you?”, “#banforlife”, “mad racist shit”, and the usual go-to, the always popular and brilliant “political” argument: “has been”, “has been trying to be relevant”. Most of these people had never followed me, didn’t know me or my work, just saw retweets attached to angry attacks. Which means that for them the joke had no original context, and context is everything. If I heard Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer say “Some women say Harvey Weinstein called them up and sexually abused them. What’s the matter? Bitch can’t hang up a phone?” I’d be enraged. But when Chappelle said it in his special, I laughed hard. Context, it’s Dave Chappelle. I know he’s not hateful. A different woman could have thought: “Who the hell are you to comment on what a woman goes through? You will NEVER be raped or sexually assaulted by a boss. You don’t have the right to make ANY jokes about ANY women, ever. Especially when your jokes blame the victims. #mansplaining #MalePrivilege.” But I didn’t. Because despite the national hyper-sensitivity over cultural appropriation and who gets to comment on which group’s reality, I believe everyone should be allowed to think and speak about everyone in the search for truth and enlightenment. Especially comics.
“See, it’s funny because Coloreds eat fried chicken there and (I) don’t belong there anymore then (they) do at a Starbucks, teehee”
What was the joke trying to say? My reaction to two young black men (I haven’t seen their names printed anywhere) getting arrested at Starbucks was as it should be; revulsion, anger. What went through my head as I watched the news report of the incident was, “Where does this idiot think two black men DO ‘belong’, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles”? Because yes, fried chicken IS the haggard cliché that makes the point that this was a racist action. If a Starbucks employee had called the police because two Hasidic jews were waiting for their friend to arrive before ordering, and wanted to use the bathroom, I would have written, “Where does this idiot think these guys should be hanging out? At a bank?” The old stereotype is exactly what makes the point; that this action was unwoke and ridiculous.
Sexual abuse is the worst. For women like me, who’ve spent a lifetime striving to be excellent at something, a close second is having the door of your profession slammed in your face, to the point where you can’t make a living, can’t move up, can’t work at the very thing you sacrificed all to master. When that happens, there is nowhere to go, no place to complain, no one to help. When those with a boot on your neck enjoy unquestioned support, you are just left for dead. And it appears to be all your fault.
There are many self-hating Jewish men in show business. Or maybe they just hated their mothers so much, they must grind assertive Jewish women under their feet. They don’t have to be Jewish, there are men who just hate women (shocking!)
In the early ’90s I had a meeting at Castle Rock Entertainment, to pitch a show about a female sports columnist facing obstacles being a woman in sports. I was on the road fifty weeks a year, I saw sexism first hand every day. At that time there were no women working in sports broadcasting, sports writing, no female voice of a team, none doing field interviews, no female voice of authority in sports. This is how bad sexism in sports was at that time: HBO was to receive a large check for “Comic Relief” during half time at a basketball game in Louisiana; a nice public relations move for all involved. Paul Rodriguez was to receive the check, but the weather was so bad, very few flights could get in or out. Paul was stranded. Chris Albrecht at HBO, knowing I was on the road and might be able to make it, tracked me down and asked me to fill in. Happy to. What a great arena, what a great crowd, what a great day. Except for one problem; they would not give me the check. The only thing they repeated over and over in their southern accents was this: “No women in the booth”. They would not make the presentation. By phone, Chris was appalled. I was appalled, everyone outside the booth was appalled. Real men often ride to the rescue, and who just happened to be present (and stopped the heart of this lifelong baseball fan?) Only the gentleman who made “The Catch” in the 1969 World Series, Ron Swoboda. You never know who’s a fan. Mr. Swoboda first apologized to me (he had nothing to do with any of it. He just apologized as a human being.) He then went into that booth and read those shit kickers the riot act, letting them know exactly who I was, forcing them to hand over the check, which was for charity for fuck’s sake. The point is, I knew how much sexism there was out there. This is what the Castle Rock executive turned my project down with: “Sexism is over.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Well dear, perception is reality, and my perception is that sexism is gone, so that’s the reality.”
I’ll never forget that sentence. When I got home my agent called to tell me the exec called her and railed that it was the worst meeting he ever had, having someone dare to argue with him. He went on and on, how dare I?
Which leads us to Franken. I kept quiet because I care about keeping Democrats in congress, and who cares about my past woes, really. But the cat is already out of the bag. These women coming forward about him need to be supported, and perhaps a broader picture will help them. His and my paths crossed many times over the decades in the world of comedy; he was always dismissive. Fine. Not the first nor the last. We happened to be the only guests booked on 1993’s New Year’s Day CNN Crossfire show. They booked two comics because Michael Kinsley and John Sununu wanted a lighthearted, entertaining New Year’s Day show. While I was silly and politically funny, Franken was serious and ponderous. Great. We gotta be us, right? At the commercial break, Franken said, with all the condescension he could muster, “Hey. Nice jokes.”
“I thought they asked us here to be entertaining.”
Cut to 2003. By then I was known for my political material. I was a favorite guest on “Politically Incorrect”, appearing in the hot seat thirty- two times, when no one else wanted to go up against tough Republicans. (The gun show pitting me against Gordon Liddy, Charlton Heston, and Ted Nugent, was excerpted the following night on Entertainment Tonight.) I had moderated the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate on C-SPAN for NOW. I had campaigned with Governor Gray Davis, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton. I did the White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner for Bill Clinton’s first year, I also did the Ford’s Theater Gala, entertaining the President and congress again. I guested on local news for election returns for hours. I did the series of Larry King’s post debate shows, speaking for the Democrats (and clashing with Republican Ben Stein, who said to my husband in the men’s room afterwards, not knowing he was my husband, “I hate Jewish women”). I alone hosted election night on the mall in Tennessee at Al Gore’s request, as the results trickled in. Six hours of ups and downs during that election mess, in the rain, when many of the Hollywood celebs abandoned ship (they literally left and refused to appear when Gore was behind in the count. Cool, I confiscated their goody bags, which were awesome), and I was left to fill hours and hours in front of thousands of people, as Gore lost his home state! I was a political comedian, walking that fine line of current events, and still being funny. So of course when the radio station “Air America” was being birthed, my name came up.
My managers and I had great meetings with John Sinton, who was putting the “liberal radio station” together. Finally, something to go up against conservative talk radio. I was perfect for it and I couldn’t wait. I cleared my calendar for one solid year, committing to the show despite the large cut in pay for me. Negotiations were almost done, when suddenly the “Air America” people went silent. No one would respond to us, or tell us why they stopped negotiating. All we knew was it was all going ahead without me, and I was left with no live work for a year. Crushed.
We finally found out, that in order to get Al Franken to be an on- air host, which they desperately wanted, “Air America” had to give him an ownership piece of the network. And let him make the on-air hiring decisions. Ah. “Air America” failed because it was heavy, preachy, ponderous, and had zero humor, lightness, or entertainment value. It took Stephanie Miller to finally successfully brilliantly host a liberal radio show. Nice jokes.
Karma’s the bitch you mistook for us.
P.S. Sexual abuse is, of course, the worst. We all know that. But keeping women from working is part of the same power play of keeping women down, out, marginalized, and broken. I would never want an innocent person found guilty of anything. Franken’s not a child molester. If he’s innocent I certainly don’t want him to lose his seat. I want him to keep it and sponsor legislation that helps women, and others.
I get it, sometimes it looks bad. But you cannot know the innocence and hope in the hearts of not –very- experienced- in- the- real- world young women wanting to succeed, who believe in goodness.
When I was starting out in 1973, as I’ve said before, we didn’t have a term for “sexual harassment”, we just called it “going to work”. That’s the way it was. I worked as a hostess in what was then the New York Improv in Hell’s Kitchen. In those days, before the big comedy boom, it was just a dive, often almost empty when the weather was bad.
I started to discover comedy that related to me, something I had never before imagined. The young comedians working there, mostly male, were lifetime comedy fans. I was new to the idea, and they kindly turned me on to Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, and all the great comedy album kings. A comedian there at the time, Bob Shaw, and I would take the train to his Brooklyn apartment in Carroll Gardens, and laugh into pillows while our bodies almost broke open, having to keep it down while his wife slept, so she could go to work early in the morning and support his dream, as did many of the comics’ wives/girlfriends at the time. I remember us almost bleeding out to Firesign Theater. Such a treat, and then when the sun came up and his wife woke up for her job, we’d all get café con leche. She went off to work and I took the train back to my apartment to sleep until work that night.
Celebrities often dropped into the club, sometimes famous comics came in and went onstage. For several nights, David Frye had come in and performed. I was a twenty -year -old, raised by the Taliban in Brooklyn. I left high school at sixteen because why even pretend? I was just accidentally discovering comedy, but recognized Frye from the Ed Sullivan Show from when I was a child. He was one of the premier impressionists in the country, his take on Nixon putting him squarely on the comedy map. This was exciting for all of us aspiring comics. Sometimes we all went to the Brasserie together if someone with more money than we had invited us. It was a fun, lively, midtown late night spot, always filled with interesting night birds and good cheesy eggs and toast.
Before I became the Improv’s hostess, Danny Aiello, the actor, had the doorman job for several years. I took over, but he still hung out there a lot and we became friends. One night around two a.m., when I was about to leave, Danny said David Frye wanted to take us to the Brasserie. I was always the last comic out, being the hostess/hostage, so no one was really around to go, except Danny and I. Danny assured me we’d have fun, and I loved going there, not to mention being a little star struck. We went and we ate and we did have fun. Then Danny took me aside, and told me Frye had lots of never-before-seen comedy tapes (etchings?) that were historical, hilarious, amazing, and rare. He suggested we all go up to Frye’s place and watch. Remember, most of us worked all night and slept all day; three a.m. was the perfect time for a social engagement in our world. I just had to make sure: “Danny, you’re going to stay and hang out too, right?”
So okay. We enter one of those grand, large, pre-war apartment buildings. We go up in the dark wooded elevator. Frye opens the door on a large, dim, clearly moneyed home. I turn to Danny again, “You’re staying, right?”
“Honey of course!”
And with that he pushes me in and runs out into the elevator and disappears. Frye heads straight to the door and locks it. He’s coming at me and though he was short and older, he was also stocky and scary. I needed to get to the door he was blocking and get out, just so I could hunt down my good friend Danny and kill him. He comes at me, grabs me and pulls me down on the couch, holding me firmly on his lap. “No!!!”
“Well just sit here until I come.”
And I push off and make it to the door and get out.
Can you imagine if I had been raped and tried to convince anyone I was not “asking for it”? I’m in this guy’s apartment alone at four a.m., I don’t know him, I thought I was going to watch comedy tapes. Yeah, right. So that’s how these things go, we really think good people are going to help us.
By the way, if every woman had a dollar for every time a horrible guy said, “Just (something) until I come”, we’d own the world. In the early days of my working at the club, I was couch surfing, no actual place to live yet. I always made it very clear I needed a couch or floor to sleep on, and I was not coming over to have sex. Most everyone was decent and honorable; the bartenders, the wait staff, the comics. One guy who became a successful Hollywood writer, Marty Nadler, had other ideas. I sat down on his couch and to my surprise he sat down right next to me. “You can’t stay here for free.”
“But you understood..”
And with that he humped my knee until he came in his pants. Four a.m. on a subway to nowhere or wait until it was over, those were my choices. Then he wordlessly went into his bedroom.
And so here’s the worst of it. Of course the sex part is horrible, but just as bad, these guys then keep you from getting work. I have no doubt that to protect themselves from you possibly shaming them, and wanting to keep you out of their sphere after shaming themselves, they preemptively paint you as a nut, a liar, a whatever, and you are never given a chance to read for a part, or become a successful part of whatever business they are a highly esteemed member of; your profession. That is the glass ceiling, covered in jism. That is some of how and why women are kept down. I have a million of ‘em #metoo, but for another time.
Today, Michael Vick released a letter to the city of Atlanta announcing his retirement from football. It’s a very well written piece about how sorry he was/is to have inflicted so much past hurt – on himself. As happened during his public statements upon his return to football, he never mentions remorse or regret for nor takes any responsibility for eight years of animal torture and murder. He regrets only his own “suffering”. In reading the tens of thousands of reactions on twitter to his piece, you see the enormous opportunity he missed today. Because he is such a good writer, he could have truly, finally, educated those of his fans who don’t have a clue (and don’t know why they should care) about dog fighting and animal abuse; a sick, criminal part of our society that makes the whole of our society more dangerous, violent and abusive toward its weaker members.
TWEET: “Michael Vick would’ve shattered the NFL record book had he not been thrown in jail for being a black man.”
That tweet diminishes every lynching, every true miscarriage of justice against blacks, every unarmed black person shot and killed by police, with its “cry wolf” ignorance.
TWEET: “Why are people still on that with Michael Vick? Y’all act like he did what he did and got away with it. No, he went to jail for 2.5 years”
Actually, he served eighteen months, (two off-seasons), and not one minute of time for his eight years of animal abuse, torture that went beyond imagination. He plea bargained a “not guilty” to that, and pled to bankrolling a gambling conspiracy. I’m an animal rescuer, so I believe in second (and third, fourth, and fifth) chances. But Michael Vick never served time for nor took responsibility for his crimes.
TWEET: “white people kill deers and hang they head up on the ceiling but michael vick cant kill a couple punk ass dogs. eat a dick”
From Michael Vick’s Letter Today: “I was sorry — sorrier than I could ever express — for what I had done. I knew the millions of dollars that I had lost, and the value to my reputation that I had lost, and every day was a reminder of the freedom that I had lost. I knew all of that.”
There’s a lot of that in Vick’s letter, the disappointment of what he had done to himself, the disappointment of not playing football, of possibly not ever getting a contract to play again, against all that he had lost. Leaving out remorse, regret, or apology for what he did to animals, and the fact that they matter and it matters, is what leads to tweets like the one above.
First of all #ShopTalk, a “mistake” is hitting a dog with your car. Eight years of promoting illegal and sickening dog fighting for profit at Vick’s own Bad Newz kennels, where Vick himself electrocuted, drowned, and smashed losing dogs to the ground over and over in order to kill them isn’t a “mistake”. Neither you, Vick, nor many of his fans call it what it was; torture, murder, mutilation, so let’s start there. You know, you don’t have to be a dog lover to be appalled. Dogs are intelligent, sentient beings who feel fear, pain, terror. They are smart enough and emotional enough to be invaluable in search and rescue, to lead the blind, save soldiers’ lives, make independence possible for wheelchair users, or deaf, or autistic people. Their existence makes the world kinder and more humane. This wasn’t Richard Pryor shooting a car. In every interview I have read or seen, Vick repeats his contention that “no one ever told him dogfighting was wrong”, that others “should have told” him, etc. He was a grown man making millions and living a life which offered access to everything, but he “didn’t know”?
TWEET: “If I could go back in time and change anything. I’d go back and tell Michael Vick’s cousins to take the charge for him.”
And you wonder why many people don’t forgive Vick? When you minimize the horror of your crimes by omitting them, you get this tweet, instead of something like, “If I could go back in time I’d make Michael Vick not torture animals”. It’s not bad that it happened, it’s bad that he got caught.
America loves to forgive, we are great at resurrection. We always welcome back the fallen star as long as the star not only pays his/her debt, but, and this is the key, takes responsibility. Muhammed Ali, extolling Islam, was convicted of draft evasion in his boxing prime, given a five year sentence, a $10,000 fine, stripped of his title. Nearly 60,000 Americans were killed and 150,000 wounded in Viet Nam. Whites died alongside blacks. Every family of every one of those soldiers had every reason not to forgive Ali. So why is he one of all of America’s most enduring, beloved heroes? He manned up. He paid his debt. He took responsibility. He never once felt sorry for himself. In fact, the way he glorified himself, with charm, humor, bravado, actually glorified his fans.
Scores of people tweeted this today:
TWEET: “Catch me boolin wit my dawgs just like Michael Vick”
TWEET: “When I get a dog, Imma train it Michael Vick style”
TWEET: “My bunny bites her cage one more time I’m gonna be the next Michael Vick.”
TWEET: “… Falcons fans were burning Michael Vick jerseys over some dogs?”
All this animal cruelty bravado, because Vick’s fans weren’t made to get it.
TWEET: “Dog fighting aside, we will never have another Michael Vick.”
And dead women aside, we’ll never have another Jack the Ripper.
TWEET: “Michael Vick & his friends did a horrific thing paid his time and spent rest of life apologizing & helping that’s his legacy PRINT THAT.”
I would if it were true. Here’s what is true. For a sad $50,000 “donation”, the Humane Society of the United States immediately cooperated with Michael Vick and his publicist to rehabilitate his image. The $50,000 was a drop in the bucket to the HSUS, but the press Vick was getting allowed the HSUS to maximize the relationship financially, as well as ride his huge publicity coattails. The Humane Society of the United States started collecting money from the public to help and care for the “Vick dogs”, which they actually never had. After that, without ever having had the dogs, they claimed the dogs “could not be rehabilitated” and recommended they be euthanized. While the Humane Society of the United States kept the money they collected for the dogs, Best Friends Animal Society stepped in. They cleaned up Vick’s mess, along with the public who eventually adopted these incredible, loving dogs. Best friends used the always limited rescue resources of time and money to treat, help, heal, love, and re-home almost 100% of the Vick dogs. Vick made millions after his release thanks to the HSUS, and the HSUS continues to profit off his name.
Meanwhile, while Vick celebrates and profits, true animal rescue organizations continue to struggle under the weight of what Michael Vick wrought. Year after year, we do what we can to clean up the pitbull mess in America: backyard breeders breeding millions of pitbulls for fighting, most ending up in overcrowded shelters, millions being killed, millions more being bailed out at our own expense. Law enforcement saw an uptick in pitbull fighting after all the Vick publicity. He never addressed what he did, and his fans wanted to be like him.
Today was a true missed opportunity. 133 touchdowns and 22,464 yards don’t make you a hero, they make you good at football. Being a man who says to guys who want to be tough, cruelty is not the way, but kindness, love and compassion are, is a hero.
Top (happy) photo of JohnGarcia-Meryl-vicktorydog courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society
Today is the “March for Life”, against all freedoms that give a woman domain over her own body. They are marching for what they call “The Pre-born”. The Christian, self righteous, pro-life marchers are here to make a point; “every life is sacred, every life should be born, every life matters”. We Pro-Choicers agree. Every life is sacred, every life matters. Where we disagree is, we march for the already born, and the women who can care for, love, and want a newborn. Our end game is not simply to provide the church with more bodies. We actually, actually CARE about babies; babies being wanted, babies being born into love and joy, babies who will be supported and raised and taught and cared for, and loved, for their whole lives. We give birth for the long haul. The Catholic Church will take care of you til the day you’re born.
Are the world’s (and America’s) children all so warm and safe and provided for that we must again steal a woman’s rights regarding her personal being, in order to refill our orphanages and make children available for those childless couples who promise to love and protect, not abuse and exploit them? The answer is no. The orphanages remain full as always. These already born children have no love, mentoring, promise of a bright future. They’re just numbers. They inspire just self satisfied marching.
In 2014, 1,546 children died from abuse and neglect, and 71 percent of these children were younger than 3 years old. More than 44 percent of children who die from abuse and neglect every year are under a year old (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). And just wait until the Affordable Care Act is gone. I know the “pro-lifers” will step in and take these orphaned children to doctors when they are sick.
In 2014, more than half of children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color (AFCARS).
It is estimated 140 Million children world wide are orphans. (But we must march for more! Or women will get too free.)
There were 415,129 children in foster care in the United States in 2014 (AFCARS).
Say, why don’t you pick one up on the way home from your “March For Life”? Take two, they’re small.
The Pro- Choice world loves children, babies, families so much, that we want every innocent soul born onto this earth to be adored. And you “Pro – Birthers” are terrible, terrible caregivers. The statistics shown above are created by you. Your “righteousness” in destroying women’s lives stops short of helping, adopting, loving, the very beings you insist upon forcing into existence. You have no business on earth in the most private, quietest sector of a woman’s body, and heart, at her most personal, vulnerable time. But we don’t live with our heads in the sand. We don’t call it a victory when a baby is born just to be thrown into a trash can at a prom. It’s not success when a baby is dumped in a system that will ignore, suffer, destroy it, then set it free eighteen years later without a road map of the human heart, spirit, or even the subway system. Had you gotten your way, would you marchers now be housing the almost one million people born (instead of not being born) unwanted last year if abortion had been illegal? I hope so, because you will be the people legally responsible for these births when they happen, legal guardians of the law’s benevolence; a million unwanted people with no means of emotional, physical, or financial support, suddenly descending on America, every year. All coming to your homes as you are their reason for being. You made their lives possible. In every spiritual religion, you are now responsible for them. And you have done a horrific job so far.
If we lose our right to choose, I propose every woman forced to give birth against her will name Trump, Pence, and every congressperson (and supreme court judge, and governor, and mayor) who got rid of Roe v Wade, as the father. They are the actual parents of your child, they are the reason you have a child. A class action suit for support by millions of women would be the only fair means of support for the children now forced upon you.
The same people who are anti-choice are against sex education in the schools. Why not just sell cars without brakes?
See? It’s all about them not wanting you to have sex for pleasure. And if they taught you birth control, then you could have sex for pleasure. So no, we need the baby as punishment. The opposite of a beautiful life, dontcha think?
If they really cared about a “baby”, they’d embrace the Morning After Pill (Plan B), because right after sex, with no idea of fertilization or not, you can take this pill if your condom breaks. We are talking ten minutes after sex. But they are against that, as they believe it’s “killing a life”. So you can see, it’s not at all about actual babies, or where life begins, or wanting to help orphans. It is only, only, about keeping women prisoner. And the fact that you might have enjoyed sex.
Bush: “Sex education causes promiscuity. If you have the knowledge you’ll use it”. Not really. I took algebra. I never do math.
Bush: “Birth shouldn’t be taught, it’s a miracle.” So’s popcorn if you can’t figure out how it happened.
Every baby born should be wanted and loved, and able to be cared for. That is why I am pro-choice. That is why I support Planned Parenthood. Hey “Marchers For Life”, maybe next year you can do something meaningful and actually go visit those full orphanages you ignore all year. Maybe bring some candy, read a child a book…