Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thoughts on Penn State

This is not a post I want to write. This is not a subject I want to discuss. And that's the problem.
There is no question that the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky are reprehensible. The idea that anyone could ever sexually abuse a child is not a thought that anyone even wants to have pass through their mind. It's a haunting, horrifying thought. What then, would our reactions be if we were confronted with evidence that someone we knew or respected was guilty of such a heinous act? Mike McQueary, who caught Sandusky in the act, reported what he saw to the only men he respected more, his father and the head coach. Joe Paterno, who had known Sandusky for decades, reported it to his superiors after being informed by McQueary. I haven't even lived as long as Paterno knew Sandusky.
A natural, human reaction from the outside is to be disgusted by what happened. Another, natural reaction if you were close to the offender would unquestionably be disbelief. How many would be in denial? How many would try to sweep it under the rug and try to forget this ever happened, or pretend hat it wasn't still happening? How many wouldn't even want to discuss it? It would be far more than you would hope, I think. It takes a certain bit of resolve to address such a frightful issue, especially when it involves someone close to you.
Joe Paterno did address the issue to his superiors, which is better than many would have done, and I believe he is still a good man. Still, he had an added responsibility as a leader of young men and venerated member of the community to do the morally correct thing. He started to, but in the end, failed.
He had a good idea of what had transpired. That isn't up for debate. He told the grand jury as much (which is why Sandusky was arrested, the grand jury investigation, not necessarily Paterno's testimony). If you had reported what may be the worst crime known to humanity, child abuse, wouldn't you want to make sure that those you had reported it to followed through? Shouldn't Paterno have been perturbed that there was no police investigation at all? By moving quickly on from the incident, he allowed Sandusky to continue without punishment, seeing Sandusky continue to work with children, Paterno is culpable of something, certainly. The fact that he even addressed the issue initially at all is an indication that he knew something was wrong, and yet he failed to see justice or even preventative action all the way through.
Paterno was a victim of circumstance, but over a dozen young boys were victims of so much worse.


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