No, F. Scott. We don't forget, but we do forgive. A classic case is Vanessa Williams, who was crowned Miss America 1984, only to be dethroned ten months later when some saucy pictures of her turned up in Penthouse Magazine. It was the old, old story: she had posed when she was younger and needed the work, and was hardly the first person to be bitten by karma in such a way. I personally have needed years to live down the infamy of being photographed with Pamela Anderson. In my case, however, I was identified by the stage name I employed at the time: "Tommy Lee." But still.
So all these years later, we can turn on the tv set every Sunday and see Vanessa strutting about on "Desperate Housewives," and you betcha there aren't a lot of people saying, "Turn off the tv, Henry; it's that horrible woman with the nudie pitchers!" She moved on. We all did. Truth to tell, you could probably see pictures like that of most of your friends on Facebook, and the world wouldn't stop revolving.
Another once-notorious and now-celebrated person who appears on television on Sundays is Michael Vick. You all know the story about him, and the coals of his infamy are still glowing a lot more brightly than Vanessa's. Raised in a culture that included dogfighting, Vick spent a lot of the money he made as an NFL quarterback on that sick sport, got caught, went to jail, lost two years of time in his career, and has come out of jail ostensibly rehabilitated and penitent, and does a lot of public speaking against that which derailed his career. He speaks to young people about doing the right things, he works for the Humane Society to fight the scourge of dogfighting, and he has had as his guide on the road to spiritual renewal the highly-regarded former coach of the Professional Football Team which Plays In Indianapolis but Still Belongs to Baltimore, Mr Tony Dungy. (Some things, we just DO NOT forgive or forget!) Vick's public image is being restored, and his career is in high gear again.
Vick began the year as a backup quarterback on the Philadelphia Eagles, but injuries to the starter put him back on the field, and he has excelled. Meanwhile, the stands are full of people cheering for his ability to throw, or run with, a football, and many of those fans are people who swore that they would never attend a game, watch a game, or root for a team with that horrible man Vick on it.
And yet, they cheer. So we do forgive, and we realize that we are none of us perfect. This week, Vick startled people again by saying that he wants a dog in his home. He said his daughters really miss having a pooch on the premises, and, even though the terms of his probation dictate no dog ownership until mid-2012, he wants one, and says, "I really mean what I say. I don't have a problem. I'm not a psychopath. I'm not crazy. I'm a human being. What happened in my past and what I did in the culture I grew up in doesn't shape and mold me as the person I am now.
Predictably, there is mixed opinion on this. PETA says Vick should be banned from owning dogs for life, while Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle, who has been working with Vick, feels that it would be OK after Vick's probation is up. I don't know about the lifelong ban, but gee whiz, I don't know about him ever owning a dog.
What say you?