Friday, July 3, 2009

What Price a Life?

Donte Stallworth ran into a 59 year old man who was on his way home after working all night at a Miami construction site this past March 14. Stallworth had been drinking all night. He was driving his luxury car; Mario Reyes was on foot crossing the street. Police estimated Stallworth was going 50mph in a 40mph zone. His blood alcohol level was .126 well above the Florida limit of .o8. Stallworth stopped after he hit Reyes and called 911. His lawyer said, "he acted like a man and took responsibility for his actions." Too bad he didn't take responsibility for his actions before he got in the car and drove drunk. Did he act like a man then, too? Driving drunk? For his crime, Stallworth was sentenced to 24 days in jail. He will probably be suspended by the NFL at the start of this season for a few games, forfeiting some salary. His insurance companies settled with the victim' family avoiding a lawsuit.

Not long ago another NFL player was convicted of operating an unlawful interstate dogfighting ring. Michael Vick, a superstar quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was vilified in the media for his horrible abuse of the dogs who were used for his dogfighting promotions. For his crime, Vick served almost two years in prison and was fined 1 million dollars. He is awaiting word when his football suspension will be lifted although his former team has already said they do not want him back.

So two cases. In one a human being is dead and in another some dogs are abused and killed. In one a night of pleasure results in a dead father and husband and in another someone's pleasure results in maimed or dead animals. Few people have firsthand experience of dogfighting. It is not a common pasttime. Most people probably would be repulsed by it. Dogs are very popular pets and most people see them that way. Vick's hobby appalled people.

Stallworth, on the other hand, was involved in a pasttime many people can relate to. Having a few drinks at a their local bar. Many people have picked up their car keys and driven home after enjoying those drinks. Alcohol is big business in this country. It earns a pass in most drunk driving cases. No one is going to go to bat for someone who abuses animals. No one shakes his head and says, oh well that happens. It clearly does not need to happen. However, when it comes to having a few drinks and driving, oh well that happens. When someone is killed, oh well that happens.

Donte Stallworth feels terrible about the tragedy he caused. Michael Vick says he feels badly, too. There is no good reason to cause a dog to suffer. There is no good explanation for why someone gets into a car after a few drinks. But, in this country, if you do, and if you are rich, you can get away with murder.

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