When is a mistake not a mistake? The simple Old Norse word mistake is used to cover a multitude of behaviors that have little to do with the conventional meaning of the word. The OED definition: mistake n. a). A misconception about the meaning of something; a thing incorrectly done or thought; an error of judgment b). In generalized use: misapprehension, misunderstanding; error, misjudgment. c). something chosen through an error of judgment; a badly selected thing, a regrettable choice.
A mistake is something like forgetting to add baking powder to a recipe, or re-hiring Michael Vick after he admittedly committed a deliberate act of incomprehensible violence. What Michael Vick did was not a mistake, but a deliberate act that he committed with the full knowledge that doing so is not only against the law, but might endanger the lives of others.
Here is a direct quote from Michael Vick, more than likely at the advice of his spin doctors, where the use of the word mistake is completely out of place and context, taking into consideration the gravity and gruesomeness of the nature of the acts committed, “I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions.” Vick was 27 years old at the time he made this statement. A mistake? No, what Vick did was a deliberate act. Nothing more, nothing less. How can any logical human being apply the word mistake in conjunction with operating a large-scale dog-fighting operation? Because he is Teflon and all the bad things slide off of those who supposedly “matter”. The only reason “mistake” is used in this context is because it is a pacifying word. We all make mistakes, every day of our lives. For that reason, when we hear that someone has apologized for his mistake, our instinctive reaction is to want to forgive. We probably wouldn’t react the same way to the phrase admitted to a horrific crime of pre-meditated abuse.
We can’t prevent convicted embezzlers, arsonists, child-abusers, or killers from calling their crimes “mistakes,” but as writers and reporters, you have an obligation to ensure that the words are used in a suitable context. You also have a responsibility to ensure that you present BOTH sides of the story and the actual facts, not a scaled-down, pro-Vick version of the entire story. Vick is not a hero, he is not redeemed; rather he is a sociopathic serial abuser. When he shows us actual remorse and restitution, perhaps the cacophony will diminish.
And for the record, I don’t hate football, nor am I a racist – both weak arguments that are crutches for those who simply cannot grasp, cannot comprehend or just don’t care about the horrifying acts that this man committed. And those people scare me – they really scare me. I can forgive but I cannot forget.
And please, for the record, read the entire police report, read the Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant, read “Through Her Eyes” by Chris Durant, and THEN get back to me on your stance about what a wonderful second chance this monster deserves. What he is entitled to is working with rehabilitation of animals and educating those who participate in such vile activities. And he needs to mean it; he needs to walk the walk not just talk the talk. He doesn’t deserve to be making millions of dollars tossing a football around while those of us in the actual trenches fight tirelessly to rectify and repair the damage he and his ilk have committed against the most helpless and trusting of creatures. After reading the reports, after reading the book and after reading the article, I ask you…would you trust your dog at his home? WOULD YOU??