Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given by Duane "Dog" Chapman and Laura Morton

I have to admit that when I saw my first television commercial for the show Dog the Bounty Hunter I was pretty skeptical. Sometime later I caught a piece of the show and became even more skeptical. Here was this guy with a country accent and his crazy long hair wearing very loud clothes with cowboy boots chasing bail jumpers around Hawaii and he would be yelling and cursing at them but at the end he was talking to them about God and things like redemption. This was very peculiar behavior and the pieces didn’t seem to fit together. Then a curious thing happened. I watched the show again. Then again and again. As I continued watching I began to understand more of what Dog was all about and where he came from. Instead of judging him by his appearance I started digging a little deeper to find out where he came from and before you knew it, I was a fan, a believer in Dog.

Flash forward and at the end of 2007 there was a scandal involving a telephone conversation that Dog had with his son Tucker in which Dog used strong language including the “N” word to describe Tucker’s girlfriend who is African American. In the conversation he did state that it wasn’t about the color of her skin but her character that he was referring to. His show was taken off of the air by A&E and he faced an uphill climb to get it back on the air. The new book Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given shows Dog explaining how he had come to use the word and that he didn’t even understand that he wasn’t allowed to use it. On the surface that sounds pretty implausible but as Dog explains, he dropped out of school in the seventh grade and became a criminal and a biker then went to prison for eighteen months for a murder that he was present for (waiting in the car) but didn’t commit. Every black person that he met that he was cool with didn’t seem to have a problem with him using the word as it was never used in an angry manner, but in the same way that blacks used it amongst themselves. As Dog got older he continued to use the word with those kinds of friends and in privacy at home. Never did he use it in public in a negative manner.

When this story broke in the news my first thought was “How did a private conversation between a father and a son get taped AND released publicly?" Since a third party doing so would result in a lawsuit the only thing that seemed possible was that his son, Tucker, had to have taped the conversation and sold it to the rag (whose name I won’t give the dignity of repeating) that printed the story. The book explains that Dog would not allow Tucker on the show because he thought that the girlfriend was a bad influence on him and that she was responsible for getting him back on drugs and that they didn’t want her anywhere around them or him. Tucker got what was for him a large amount of money for selling the tape and the story to the rag and they tried to portray him as just a man trying to stand up for his girlfriend who had been called this horrible name. The reality was that it all came down to money and hurt feelings. Tucker later ended up in jail for violating his parole for using drugs.

As Dog tried to repair his image and show people that he never had tried to purposefully hurt anyone and that he was not a racist he came to understand just how he had hurt people by not thinking about the language he was using. Not only was he able to repair some of those bridges that he had destroyed but he was also able to learn a great deal in the process. I always believed that there was more to the story than what we were being told. Dog was able to meet and win over people like Roy Innis who is the chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality by being himself and proving that he was not a racist. All the press does these days is jump on a sensational story and repeat it ad nauseum. Unfortunately they do a very poor job of fact checking and just parrot what they hear others reporting without stopping to verify if it’s true or not. This book goes a long way in explaining the situation in detail. It also gives more information into the Andrew Luster case that saw Dog, his son Leland and his associate Tim Chapman facing deportation to Mexico for what was a misdemeanor crime for apprehending a very rich man in their country who ran out on his bail after facing 86 counts for drugging and raping a number of women and fled the United States. Plus there are some stories about previous hunts that Dog had been on in his career.

Overall the book flowed very well and gave out a lot of information as well as helping to explain just what had actually happened in these cases. Dog received his education on the streets and will be the first to tell you that he isn’t very book smart but he is street smart and he knows the nature of man. He can do things that most police cannot, including finding those that decide not to abide in the law or the policies of the bail agencies. I for one am a fan and only wish him well. He tries to help those who are at their lowest understand not only that they need to change but that they can change. Look at Dog as an example if you don’t think it can be done. After all, he did.

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