CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “Penn State”

Caught in the corner.

Hang on, dig in, strap down, get set.  I am going to state a truism that may just rock your world.  Ready?  Here it is:  Life is hard.  Yep, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but there it is.  Life is hard and there is nothing to be done about it.  “Life is pain Highness.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.”

When I was young (Wait.  I meant younger) I thought I was ready for anything that life had to throw at me.  I thought I would chew it up and spit it out.  Little did I know just how painful life can be.  Let me describe what I mean.

I met Beth at Behrend College of Penn State in 1975.  Through her feminine wiles, we soon fell in love and planned our life together.  Long walks, long talks, gazing into each others’ eyes, we did all those dewy, romantic and saccharine things that young couples often do when they fall in love.  Objectively speaking, our romance was (and remains) the best and finest romance in the history of the world.  And I wouldn’t trade one single minute for anything.

We married in 1978 (see, Beth?  I do too remember) and started with nothing more than an old Chevy Impala given to us by my folks, a cat, and love.  What a grand start to a marriage!  We moved to northwestern Pennsylvania and I found a job in, of all places, a donut factory on my way to my life-long dream job of being a policeman.  I got into police work over thirty years ago, and the trials and travails Beth and I experienced could have wrecked us multiple times.  But from the beginning, we both loved God more than anything, and have worked to make Him, and Him alone, the focus and center of our marriage.

Children came along, planned and anticipated.  Loved, adored, and our pride and joy.  We raised them “purposely and intentionally,” a catch phrase with a set of our closest friends; a catch phrase, but describes our parenting very nicely.  Everything we did with them was intended to be a life’s lesson, to instruct them and to train and prepare them for everything that life was going to throw at them.  Clearly we were not perfect, and there are innumerable moments I wish I could take back, change, re-do.  But we’re not given that option, are we?  Even so, no one has ever loved their children more, or worked harder to raise their children to be the best they could be.  I went back to school part-time, and worked toward my Master’s Degree from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.  I found that I enjoyed my class work (as opposed to my undergrad experience) and excelled.  Of course, I devoted a ton of time to my school work to do so, but enjoyed it none the less.

In the mid-1980’s, I joined the Erie Police Department in Erie, PA.  Having come from a small police department where every sneeze and belch was noted and scrutinized, when I moved to a larger department I was like a kid in a candy store.  I had more fun than anyone had a right to.  But all things change, and even good things have a habit of diminishing.  I finished my Master’s degree program and eventually left the street to become a detective, then a Detective Sergeant working Homicides, bank robberies with FBI agents, Presidential protection details with the Secret Service, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT),  just about any cool thing that one could desire.  I had a “patron” that was guiding me in the ways of politics within the city, and I was moving toward higher ranks; meeting people, shaking hands, joining clubs and organizations.

During this time I also worked in our church.  I found myself elected to the Deacon board, which at the time was kind of a combined Elder/Deacon position.  We made policy for the church, as well as watching for the immediate spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in the congregation.  As was typical, I threw myself into it, and spent a lot of time working for the church.

As are many men, I am driven to excel at whatever task I take on.  And for most of the things I try, I push myself until I’m pretty good at whatever it is I am doing.  However, as I pushed and struggled to advance, I noticed something.  My daughters were in High School, perhaps only a few years from graduating and moving on.  And I hardly knew them.

I remembered some of the ideals that Beth and I had as young marrieds and as young parents, and I did not want to look back and regret the time that I devoted to my job; I did not want to regret the time that I should have given to my children.  So I did something that was very difficult for me.  I took myself off the fast track at work.  Man was I disappointed.  But, I thought, at least I had my church and my family.  Family, church, and work.  I measured myself as a successful man by these three things.

Oops, one down.  I intentionally gave work away, but that’s ok.  I still had the other two.  I convinced myself that as long as I “succeeded” at church and family, I was ok.  Work was actually the third on the list anyway, so I could be less than at the pinnacle there and still be a success at the other two.  However, church is a funny thing; it’s filled with people.  And people are the same no matter where they happen to be located.  I dealt with good folks and mean folks all across the spectrum.  I dealt with issues that I wish I had never known about.  Ultimately I kind of flamed out with leadership in church, too.  When my term as Deacon expired, I did not seek re-election, and I am not sure how eager I am even now, twenty-something years later, to repeat that experience.

Two down.  But I still have my family.  And this is the most important of the three.  As long as I “succeed” at family, I still have worth in my eyes.  I am still a “successful” man.

You kind of see what’s coming, right?

I had read a book once that described a father’s raising his family, and essentially his thoughts were that no matter what success he had elsewhere, if he didn’t raise his children well, what good is he?  I agreed with that, and worked accordingly.

Now before I continue, I want to make clear that I love my children.  With my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Nothing has ever changed that, and nothing ever will.  Further, I need not detail more than this.  They are good people, working to be the best that they can envision themselves to be.  I am proud of them and their accomplishments.  Suffice it to say here that they have chosen to walk a couple of paths that I would not have chosen for them.  Their lives, their decisions.  I respect that and will support them, love them, help them to the best that I am able.

I think that at least in part, I took their “contrary” decisions personally, that it was my responsibility for where they have chosen to be.  Of course, each of us will ultimately take ownership of our choices and decisions, but at the time, I keenly felt that I was an abject failure as a father.  And for me that was strike three.  I was a failure as a man.

Some people turn to drink, some people may become even more spiritual, some turn to other outlets to ease the pain.  I have had several.

For years I have struggled with, shall we say, less wholesome outlets.  I honestly don’t know how teens can cope with the internet.  One can instantly find just about anything one would care to find.  With all that one can access today via the internet, I wouldn’t have survived as a teen.  Anyhow, through a lot of prayer, working with several dedicated and spiritual men, this particular area is much less difficult for me than it once was.

But there were other ways that one can feel momentarily better.  Food is one of my biggest struggles.  I love food.  I love the smell of good food, I love the taste of food and its texture as I roll it through my mouth, I love the satisfying feel of a full stomach.  And Beth is honestly the best cook I have ever known.

For a while this wasn’t as big a problem as it could be.  Although my metabolism had been slowing down, I was pretty active.  Being on the SWAT team was pretty demanding, and I had to stay in some semblance of shape, so even though I ate big, I burned a lot of it at the same time.  Also, at 6’3″, I can hide it pretty well.  This changed a bit when I retired from the team.  I ballooned to an all-time high of 260 pounds of unadulterated cellulose, and looked every bit like the chubby hubby that I was.

I had other outlets as well.  I am a very sensual guy.  I love taste, texture, beauty, scents.  I love trying new things.  I love learning.  So when I find something new that tastes great, smells great, and has nuance, I dive in.  Especially if it’s not something that a ton of people do.  I discovered craft beer and I discovered cigars.  Both are topics of endless discussion for me, I can talk for hours about either.  For the record, my buddy Matt makes the best beer I have tried; second is Founder’s Breakfast Stout or perhaps Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stouts.  Oh, man!  For cigars, my go to is always an Ashton, and specifically an Ashton Double Magnum, although I love all kinds of cigars at different times.  If you’re interested, go see Chris at Leaf Lover’s Tobbaconist in North East, PA for a great cigar.  And remember my advice.  If you can buy cigars and gasoline at the same location, don’t buy the cigars!!

Anyhow, along with Scuba diving, these were the outlets I used to “cope” with life’s little surprises.  I was a far cry from that twenty-one year old that thought he could handle everything.  Essentially, it looks like I can’t handle much of anything.  Or maybe life just kept throwing its little surprises until I was broken down.  Whatever, I was at a point that I needed help with coping.  But I didn’t like where I was.  That having been said, I think I need to clarify here.  As long as this post turns out to be, it is still a very abbreviated version of all this.  This entire process kind of evolved over the past twenty years or so, and I am condensing it here to a couple of thousand-ish words.  Also, it may look like I was just a total wreck.  Not so, but I had come to lean on tangibles, not on inner strength and God’s power.

So, here I was.  A failure at work, a failure at church, a failure with my family.  “Needing” food, scuba, beer, and cigars.  So what happened next?  Earlier this year I looked at a couple of photos taken of me, and man, I did not like what I saw.  This guy’s a fatty!  Beth and I both decided it was time, so we embarked on a weight loss and life style change.  Although I started at a lower weight than my all time high, since May, I have lost about thirty pounds with ten to go to my goal.  Beth has done even better.  I think we both look great, and the next step is to get back to the gym and get in shape.

Food’s gone as a crutch.

Beer has been assuming an increasingly anticipated portion of my life.  And I don’t mean nasty or cheap beer.  You folks that drink Bud lite or Coors, well, you have my pity.  Micros are the bomb!  So many different breweries, so many different styles, combinations of hops and malts, I could easily live in a Brewpub.  Wait.  Clark, what did you just say?  Did you hear yourself?

Beth pointed out to me a bit ago that I was consuming more beer than I had before.  She wasn’t yet alarmed exactly, but she was kind of concerned.  Her concern was justified.  Although in comparison to many I didn’t drink much at all, and although in comparison to Europeans I hardly drink anything, I was still using the beer as a crutch.  Clark, what are you doing?  Yep, I need to cut back.  And although I have no intention to cease, my beer consumption has hugely diminished.

Beer’s gone.  But I still have my last stronghold, I still have my cigars.

You can see what’s coming, right?  Hey, didn’t I already say that?

Many people would say this explains a great deal, but as a teen, I fell on my head a couple of times.  Looking back, I probably fractured my spine, but as I could get up and move, I never went to the hospital or even saw a doctor.  Fast forward four decades or so, and I now have two degenerative discs.  After several years of chiropractic therapy and numerous pain shots, I had my neck fused four months ago on two levels; C-5 to C-6, and C-6 to C-7.  The surgery went great, the chronic pain is gone, and the healing has been fine.  But.  My scuba season ended on the date of my surgery, and I probably won’t get back under water (except for assisting classes of new divers in the pool) until spring.

We went back to my surgeon last Monday.  After x-rays, he showed me that the higher level is about 99% healed; essentially completely healed.  The lower level, not as much.  He gave me a few restrictions, and said that he wasn’t concerned at all, and that the only way he would be concerned at all is if I was a smoker, which I am not.  I told him that I haven’t touched a cigarette in my life, but that I do have an occasional cigar.  At that point he kind of stared at me, hesitated a second, and said, “You need to stay away from those.”

Ok, I get it.  Nicotine restricts blood vessels and inhibits the uptake of oxygen, both needed for healing.  I won’t smoke a cigar for months.  But that was my last tangible support.  I am now officially left with nothing to fall back on, nothing to look forward to (And let’s be totally clear.  When I say that, I mean outside my marriage.  Our marriage is still great, and getting better every day!).  When he said that, I felt like my last pillar was knocked down, my bridge was collapsing.  I was bereft.  Even Beth felt bad for me, and she is not, shall we say, the biggest fan of my cigars.

So what do I do?  As I see it, I don’t have a lot of choices here.  My only choice is the one I should have made long ago.  My only choice is to depend on God’s grace; first, last, everywhere.  A few years ago I coined a phrase that I have tried to utilize.  I kind of forgot it, but I’m gonna pick it back up.  That phrase is this.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  So this is what I am left with, this is what I want to do, what I want to continually tell myself.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  I need to give it to God, let it go, live in Him.  Fill me Father.  Fill me with You.  You God.  All You.  Nothing but You.

I don’t know why it is necessary to be painted into a corner to see that one cannot “do this” on one’s own, but I would not be surprised to find that this is rather common.  Even if not, I often find that it is the case for me.  I’ve been cornered, and I have nothing that I can use to defend myself.  I figure I can go in one of three directions.  I can collapse into a puddle of emotional plasma, I can fall back on one of the less healthy things that I used to fall back on, or I can let go and look to the Author and Protector.  I think I’ll look to Jesus.

But boy do I want a cigar.  Let it go, Clark.  It doesn’t belong to you.  Yeah, I know…

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Honors to the Military

First, I must confess to being an unabashed Conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.  I have been, since High School.  And for those counting, that’s at least thirty-seven years.  In fact, I invited President Ford to my High School graduation (I still have his “thank you” around here somewhere).  And I have always loved the military.  Understand, as a career police officer, I have known guys that love to hang around cops, are dazzled by cops,  gravitate to cops.  So I’m not like that with those that serve, or have served in the military.  But I respect them and honor them (and their families) for their service.

My Father was drafted into the Army in WWII.  He never talked about his time in the Army much, but every now and then I could get him to tell a story or two.  I know he was in France.  I know he was tapped to go to Officer Candidate School but turned them down.  I know he was a foot soldier under Patton’s crew for a while.  I know he shot at people, and (I presume) was shot at in return.  One of the things he was happiest about regarding his time in Europe was that he could honestly say that “he didn’t know if he ever killed anybody,” which, if one reads between the lines, meant he was in some engagements somewhere.

I remember as a kid finding the few mementos he kept; some collar brass, a compass in a leather pouch, shoulder stripes.  I played with them endlessly, imagining myself to be in the middle of “the action.”  Of course, like most American kids, I had no idea what that meant.  I only knew that at the time, I thought my Dad, my uncle, and everyone else that I knew that had served was a hero (of course, that has not changed.  Ever.).

I had always wondered what medals Pop might be due, but it wasn’t until after he died that I actually looked into it.  There was an address that I found that would supply those medals earned and awarded, so I sent the required information, and promptly forgot that I had done so.  A few weeks later, a rather stuffed package came in the mail from an address that I didn’t recognize.  Upon opening it, I discovered that it contained my Father’s medals from World War II.  He had earned several, including Victory in Europe, Occupation of Germany, things like that.  However, he also had gotten a Purple Heart (he would have said that was for trench foot).  The largest I saved for last.  I opened it up, and my heart nearly broke.  My Father, as a rather low-ranking Sergeant drafted as a farm boy into the Army, had been awarded the Bronze Star.  Included with the medals was the paperwork citing what he had done to earn the medals.  However, there was a problem.

Many years ago, there was a rather extensive fire in a government warehouse that destroyed many, many of the records of military men and women.  My father’s was one of those.  The only thing salvaged of my father’s records was the page listing what he was due, with nothing saying what he had done to earn them.  Even the page with the medals awarded him was scorched and incomplete.  So, with Dad dead and buried, there is little I know to do to find out what he had done to be awarded the Bronze Star.  But I was right.  My Dad is a hero.

So I have always loved and respected the military.  I graduated High School in 1975, and close to my graduation date I called the Army recruiting office to see what I needed to do to enlist.  I remember my heart was pounding, and I was as nervous as I could possibly be.  At that time, I didn’t immerse myself in politics as I do now, and was only partly aware of stuff, although I think I knew more of what was going on than I might think I did.  Anyhow, Viet Nam was pretty much the defining event of my generation, and that was in my mind as I called the recruiter.  And I got  the oddest response I have ever had, and certainly not the one I expected.   He told me, “Don’t bother, kid.  The conflict’s over.”  And that was that.  I still looked into enlisting, in order to pay for college, but my folks insisted that they would pay for school.  As I had posted earlier, it wasn’t until years later that I learned that when I was adopted, my parents promised that they would get me an education, a promise that they were determined to keep, and did.  Even so, I went to Behrend College of Penn State and was one of the founding members of the ROTC program on Behrend Campus, learning under Captain Small (later promoted to Major), and Sergeant King.

These were two very interesting guys.  Captain Small was one of the first Cobra pilots in Viet Nam.  He was a good commander of the ROTC unit, good sense of humor, definitely a leader.  He had an odd habit, though.  He chewed on his hands.  He would kind of nip them all over until there were small scabs all over both hands; they would heal up, look great, and then a while later he would do it all over again.  I figured it was due to his time “in country,” but never asked about it.

Sgt. King was my hero.  I have said that he is the second heroic man who influenced me in my life, my Dad being the first.  Sgt. Don King was a large man, quiet, and a Green Beret.  He had been field grade Captain in Viet Nam, but due to the fact that he didn’t have a college degree was rolled back to Sergeant after the conflict.  I learned a lot from that man.  As far as I know, he retired to his home state of Texas, and if anyone knows of his whereabouts, I would appreciate connection, address, anything.  When I finished up at Behrend, and transferred to main campus, I opted to not continue the ROTC program there, and not enlist upon graduation.  One of the hardest things I have ever heard in my life was the words that Sgt. King said when he learned that I would not continue.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I’m disappointed in you, Clark.  You would have made a fine officer.”

But even though I did not serve, I have honored the military and those that have served, throughout my entire life.  And this is where I get “political.”  Politically, if you are liberal and get irritated easily, I would not be hurt if you stop reading here.

See, I just don’t understand how one can serve in the military and still lean liberal.  I hear liberals voicing honor to the military and my first inclination is to get irked.  Ok, I know many liberals that honestly appreciate the military, and are sincere in their voicing that appreciation.  My problem comes from having lived through the 60’s.  I remember how the military, and those that served then, were treated.  I remember seeing troops getting spat upon and called “baby killers” in public.  I remember the shame that was heaped on them, and that at a time that, as always, I loved the military.  From my perspective, the “traditional” liberal attitude is one of contempt for the military, including the Clinton years in the Presidency, when a General, upon saying good morning to one of the Clintons’ top staffers, was told, “We don’t talk to uniforms.”  The attitude of liberals may have changed to the point that younger liberals honestly see no inconsistency between being politically liberal and appreciating the military.  As I said, my perspective has been shaped by the 60’s, which by the way, I hated when I was in ’em.  And I simply do not believe liberals of that generation, say anyone older than 40 or 45, when they say that they like, love, or simply appreciate the military.

I seem to recall that during the Presidential election in which George W. Bush beat Gore, that the military vote was suppressed.  I didn’t hear howls of protest from the left about that, and if the military vote had been properly counted (as I recall that it was not), there would have been no doubt of the outcome.  Same with the current Presidential election.  Oh, I hear screaming from the left about this group’s vote being “disenfranchised,” or that group’s vote being suppressed, but the military?  Not a word.  Personal opinion?  Theirs is the only vote that should be taken early.  If you’re not in the military and can’t vote at the appointed time, on the appointed day, too bad, so sad.  There are absentee ballots for those with legitimate reasons for not getting there on time so use them!  If you forget, if you don’t have a legitimate reason to cast an absentee ballot, forget it.  You don’t vote.  In fact, voting is a constitutional right, I understand.  But I think it is a right that is also a privilege, and if you don’t show a certain respect for that right and privilege, then I would have no issue with denying that vote.  Liberal or Conservative, there is no reason that one should not understand the basics of our system.  I would personally institute a test that one must pass prior to voting.  The test would consist of something like the following questions:  first, what is our type of government?  The answer would be Democracy, Representative Republic, something like that.  Second, what are the two major political parties with candidates running for office (Democrat and Republican).  Third, define the difference between Capitalism and Socialism.  Fourth, what are the names of the Democrat and Republican Presidential nominees and their running mates.  Simple.  And if you don’t pass, you don’t vote.

Anyway, back to the military.

I read a Robert Heinlein story once in which the only eligible voters in that society were currently in the military or veterans of the military.  I was intrigued by that concept, and I would almost (emphasis on almost) support giving up the right to vote under that condition.  I would probably add police officers, fire fighters, nurses, and perhaps even something like the Peace Corps.  My thoughts are that if you aren’t willing to serve, do you really have the right to decide the course of the country?  Of course, I know the answer to that, and I support our country, the Constitution, and the intent of our Founding Fathers.  Even so, it’s an intriguing concept.

And I know of liberals that have served in the military.  Several I worked with on the Erie Police Department, and several that I have met along the way.  But I guess I am kind of puzzled, since generally speaking, it is the more conservative political party that appreciates the military.  The liberal side?  Not so much.  I remember John F. Kerry running against President Bush.  Kerry wore his service on his sleeve, and my personal opinion is that he joined, not out of patriotism, but cynically so he could utilize his service after he got out.  Even so, I appreciate his service.  At least he joined.  It’s what he did while in there and after that I despise, and acts as an example of what I believe is the general opinion that liberals have of the military.

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing a post on Facebook.  One of my liberal friends posted an article written by one that had served in the military on why that person was voting for Obama.  My friend stated that because of the author’s service, he should be taken seriously.  My friend and I are in what I would call the beginning stages of friendship.  We respect each other and our opinions, even though they often conflict.  But I am a good judge of character, and I believe that Steve is sincere when he vocalizes support for the military.  But I can judge his sincerity because I know him.  It is much more difficult for me when it is someone I do not personally know, and cannot read their character enough to judge their sincerity.

So, to all in the military, to all that have served, and to all that shall serve in the future, my undying thanks.  You have my appreciation, my admiration.  Your political persuasion is irrelevant to this, and I thank you.  As a right-winger, as an American, I applaud you, even if you are a “leftie.”  Your service is admirable, and this country would not, could not be what it is without your service, and your sacrifice.  May you be blessed and honored for your service.  May we who are protected get it right.  May you never have a moment’s time in which you are not certain that the vast majority of Americans are grateful for what you did, what you do, what you will do.  May God Bless.

Interesting.

“May you lead an interesting life.”

I have no proof of this, but I have always been given to understand that this is an old Chinese curse.  I used to think that such a thought was silly; who wants to lead a boring life.  Then I understood just how stressful and difficult it can be when one’s life is “interesting,” and I longed for a life that was perhaps a bit less “interesting.”  I even found that for a while.  However, I find myself at a place now where my life is again a bit interesting.

For a while I’ve been in a bit of a quandary.  I have wanted to post here, but was finding it difficult to develop a relevant topic.  And then I heard Jeremy Riddle’s “Sweetly Broken” on our local Christian radio station, WCTL (BTW, they also stream and can be found at www.WCTL.org).  This song touched me, and after pondering for a while, I realized why my life is currently interesting and why this song resonated at this point in time.  There are several components to where I am right now.

First, a couple of weeks ago I found myself in an odd state of mind.  It occurred to me that I was quite frightened of a situation in which I am close to finding myself.

In previous posts I have discussed our Pastor, Bob Klecan in one reference or another.  I have had the privilege of grabbing an occasional cup of coffee with him on several occasions.  We have discussed everything from theology and “the church” to The Beatles, Vietnam, and sports.  And two things I have noticed: First, Bob Klecan is extremely smart.  And second, he is often underestimated.  He is a very humble man, able to discuss a variety of topics, understands deep issues, and can preach the word in a way that is understandable both in theory and in application.

I once asked him, “How do you deal with people underestimating you all the time?”  The look on his face was priceless.  He was shocked, first of all because it is true, he is consistently underestimated, but also because someone noted that fact.  He asked me how I knew that.  My reply was that it was easy for me to recognize that in him because I am underestimated all the time as well.

Note to all.  I am not bragging here, and this is not a “How cool am I?” piece.  Puffing myself up is not my style, far from it.  But I need to acknowledge  some things in this post which could look like bragging.  Not so.

Anyhow, with that proviso, I admit that I’m a fairly smart individual.  I enjoy learning and I enjoy experiencing new thoughts and new situations.  However, I come from a blue-collar family, solidly middle-class; not intentionally identifying ourselves as intellectual.  My Father was a non-commissioned officer in the army in WWII, and after that a farmer.  After selling the farm (where I grew for the first six years of my life), Dad purchased a service station in Springboro, PA.  He later took a job as a tool and die maker, working in that job until he retired.  Dad also did tax work on the side, which is about the only post-High School education he had.  Mom, due to family situations prior to marriage, did not have a chance to complete High School.  Relatively common in her era.

My point in giving some description of my family’s levels of education is to show that I do not come from a background of  higher education.  Some people come from families of doctors, attorneys, accountants, whatever.  Those families more or less expect their children to also get an education, the key word being also.  I did not grow up in that situation.

Although they had no college background, my family expected me to go to college, and it was just understood that I was going to college my entire life.    It wasn’t until decades later I discovered that when my parents adopted me, the judge granting the adoption made my parents promise that their son would get an education.  My parents were two of the most honest and honorable people I have ever known and when they made that promise, they were determined to keep it.  And they did.

My high school years were spent in Saegertown Area High School (they called it Penncrest, but we that went to Saegertown knew better).  I kind of coasted through high school, and struggled through my undergraduate work at Penn State.  I wasn’t much of a student at that time, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find new stuff fun.  I did.  Leaving home and going to Behrend College of Penn State for the first time was cool!  Going to Main Campus from Behrend was cool!  Getting into my major class work as a junior and senior was cool, and I did a lot better, gradewise.  Within a few months of graduating from Penn State, I got a job as a policeman, my dream job, and I have been a policeman for over thirty years.

All this background is to get to this:  my entire life I have hidden my intelligence, my drive, and my love of learning and knowledge.  Cops are the best bunch of people one could ever find outside the military, and I am honored and privileged to belong to that fraternity.  And cops hate a peg that sticks out.  If someone is unique, cops will do whatever it takes to pound that person back into the hole.  This isn’t necessarily an “I’m threatened” kind of thing, either.  We depend on each other for our lives.  Very few professions worry about some knucklehead deciding for whatever reason to put a bullet into them because they had a bad day.  Cops have to know, viscerally, that the guy next to them is dependable, and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.  A fellow officer’s oddities and uniqueness makes cops nervous, so they do what they must to feel secure that they are safe.  And that includes figuratively beating on intellectually minded people (I was also different from most cops because of the “peculiar and strange” values I brought with me due to my understanding of Christianity, but that isn’t what I’m discussing here).  So I learned (at least to some degree) to suppress that part of me.  Note:  This is not a value judgement or a criticism.  I understand the necessity of what cops do, and it is what it is.  It’s just not all that pleasant sometimes.

So here I am, thirty (plus) years later, and I find myself in a new position.  I am the Chief of Police at a University in northwestern Pennsylvania, Edinboro University of PA.  I enjoy this stage of my career, partly because of the position, of course.  I think I am doing some good where I am, and I have the chance to make a great police department even a bit better.  But for me, part of the uniqueness is being on a college campus.  I am an administrator at an institution that not only appreciates intelligence, it encourages people to apply that intelligence and to develop it.  I have found myself on various committees that I would have never dreamed of a few years ago, and I am enjoying that.  I find myself in debates with friends on the far end of the political scale from me, and have loved the debate.  My wife and I have visited an “Athiests and Agnostics” meeting, and I now have a couple of acquaintances that intrigue me and I look forward to developing a relationship with them.

And here is where I found myself frightened.  I find that I am close to being seen as a “smart” person, someone who, if not exactly an intellectual, enjoys intellectual debate and can hold his own in that area.  And not only seen as smart, but valued because of that.  I have suppressed that part of me for so long that it is scary to tap into it.  As a couple of examples, when we attended the Athiest and Agnostic meeting, the discussion was based on John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” an essay he had written in 1849.  It is a philosophical treatise on Utilitarianism, and definitely not light reading.  I read it for the discussion, and I loved it!  I have not participated in philosophical readings or discussion in over ten years, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that.  I also took college level Spanish 101 and 102 this summer, and my comprehension of a foreign language was better than I have ever experienced.

There are also a number of events occurring this summer.  I am stepping out on a number of issues: instead of sitting in one place, Beth and I took the conscious step to confront some issues that had been effecting us.  So instead of just passively standing still and taking shot after shot from life, we decided to deal with it, and consequently we are in a much better place now.  I decided to have needed corrective surgery that I had been putting off for some time (healing nicely, thank you).  We are dealing with the loss of my Mother last fall, as well as other family issues.  I volunteered to be on a council that is quite frightening in and of itself, but I felt led to do volunteer, and so was obedient.  And we are going back to the Dominican Republic in January.

If you have read my posts regarding the one-week missions trip to the Dominican Republic which started this blog, you already know how astounding it is that I would want to go back this year.  I didn’t just kind of not want to go to the DR, I did not want to go, and I was angry that I had agreed to go and was being held to that agreement.  But, being the son of honorable people, I was determined to honor that commitment, even if I hated every single second of the time I was there. Read my posts in chronological order to see the progression, but suffice it to say that God worked in amazing ways in me over that week. I came back from the DR with a renewed spirit and huge gratitude for God’s love for me.

This year, I felt that we needed to go back.  However, no one at church had made any effort for that to happen and I felt God’s prompting to be the driver.  I contacted our team leader from last year, we conferred with Pastor Klecan, and we got a game plan together.  Last Sunday at church I made an announcement regarding the trip, and seventeen people showed up to discuss their participation in the DR trip in January.  Fifteen want to go, but only four can fund the trip for themselves, and the deadline for the down payment (and thus one’s ability to go in January) is two weeks from tomorrow.  This past week, an anonymous donor paid for five to go.  We have six to fund.

I have been battered and bruised.  Crushed, numb.  But I see changes in me, in the way I view things, in my outlook.  I see healing and the return of my desire to excel, to learn, to push myself and to “push the envelope.”  Although I am more than a little uneasy at where I am right now, I feel my sense of God’s presence returning and it is far from boring.

An interesting life?  Yeah, it sure is.  And for now, I love it.  Sweetly Broken?  I’m not sure I completely understand that concept yet, but I’m far closer to understanding it than I was.

Check out Jeremy Riddle’s song “Sweetly Broken” here: http://youtu.be/fyJuKHvoPGc.

To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

Chorus:
At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

Chorus:

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

(2x’s)
Chorus:

Supporting Paterno

Note:  This post will contain some graphic material.

One would have to be from the most sheltered pocket of Appalachia to live in the United States and not know of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal.  That Sandusky (according to credible testimony during his trial, and according to the jury’s verdict) molested multiple boys over a period of decades.  Based on what I have read and observed, it is my opinion that the verdict was just and fair.

This blog will act on the assumption of Sandusky’s guilt, but that is not the point of what I am writing today.  My focus is on Joe Paterno, known affectionately to legions of Penn State fans as “Joe Pa.”

First, I am a proud graduate of Penn State, and have loved the white and blue for over three decades.  Second, I am not a huge Paterno fan, although I have appreciated his coaching and presence in Penn State football.  Third, I am a committed Christian, seeking to honor God in all I say, all I do, and all I think according to God’s word to man in the Bible.  And fourth, I am a career policeman, having served for over thirty years in my profession.  All these are merely disclaimers that I offer up as background.  I have no doubt that my opinions are (at least in part) shaped by these factors, but in part not.  The following are my thoughts on the whole sordid affair; I have definite opinions on this, but I am attempting to be as dispassionate and objective as I can.

I first made my opinions known months ago on Facebook.  I dropped what I thought to be a one-liner throwaway, when I said something to the effect, “I will save my sympathy for the boys that were molested because nothing was done,” or something similar.  Wow, did I get crucified for that!  I honestly didn’t see it coming, but in retrospect I should have.  Feelings for Penn State and Paterno run deep, and I should have understood that.  In any event, I am a bit more aware now, so hopefully any adverse comments will not sting as badly.  I believe I can go into a depth here that I could not on Facebook, and to present my thoughts on why I believe the way I do.

I want to start this section with a brief description of child sexual abuse, taken from Wikipedia.  It says:

“Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography

This is an excellent article, and I recommend you read the entire thing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse.  Child sexual abusers who have physical contact with their victims come in two basic varieties:  child rapists, and child seducers.  No one ever accused Sandusky of child rape.  He was the classic child seducer, grooming his victims over time until they acquiesced to sexual advances.  And I want to be perfectly clear on what that means.  This is a grown man, in his thirties, forties, fifties that had a definite age range for his victims.  And over a period of time, he would befriend the child, be an adult confident for the child, and be everything that child needed most in a man.  A child looks to adults to help him become an adult, to show him how to be a man.  A child needs grown-ups to look up to, to emulate, to trust.  And Sandusky broke that trust.  He used that trust, not to help the boys he abused to reach manhood, but to break them down, so he could use them for his own perverse sexual desires; to use them as he saw fit, and once they got too “old” for him, to move on to the next victim.  Adults who are child sexual abusers will seduce their victims, until the child is compliant, and will eventually place his erect penis into their mouth, or their anus, or both.  In this case, absorb the notion of a fifty year old man placing his penis into the anus of a ten year old boy.  I want you th think about that for a minute.  Seriously.  Close your eyes and consider this for just a few moments.  It makes me want to vomit.  And the thoughts I have of vengeance for those innocents damaged by this non-human piece of filth are decidedly not inspired by thoughts of Christian love.

Philosophically, there are generally two types of laws;  Mala in se, and Mala prohibita.  Mala in se refers to laws that are self-evident, that “nature,” if you will, demands.  Murder for the sake of murder would be considered mala in se.  Rape would be another example.  Mala prohibita refers to laws that are man-made, that exist simply because society had decided that the law in question should be in place.  Public drunkenness might be an example of this, or personal drug use.  None of these laws are invalid, their classification above simply indicates from whence they arise.

I would argue that adults protecting children is a law, though perhaps not codified, in the Mala in se category.  Nature demands that we protect our children, no matter what the situation may be, no matter from whom we are protecting them.  This is where I believe McQueary, Penn State administrators, and Joe Paterno failed.

Here are the general facts of this case.  Mike McQueary. an assistant football coach at Penn State, observed some sort of inappropriate sexual contact between Jerry Sandusky and a very young male in a locker room shower at Penn State.  This is where my disgust with McQueary begins.  What did he do?  He left the locker room, and went home to talk to his dad about it.  Personally, I would have found the nearest heavy implement (think tire wrench or baseball bat) and had a very personal “chat” with Sandusky.  Mike McQueary asked his dad what he should do.  And he turned it to his benefit.  In my opinion, he did what would further his career, and not what was best for that boy.  Also in my opinion, Mike McQueary should never coach football again.  I personally think he should be shunned by society, and should have trouble finding work stocking shelves at K-Mart.

The next day he approached Joe Paterno, arguably the most powerful man in Penn State, and one the trustees had been looking to put out to pasture for a long time.  Now here, what Paterno did approached the correct thing.  Stunned, he contacted his boss and told him of what McQueary had seen.  In my book, not enough even at that time, but he did something so I will not fault him for that.  He should have called the police, which he did not.  His notifying the head of the police is the equivalent of reporting a homicide in Chicago to the mayor, and not the police department.  So do not indicate Paterno even “technically” notified the cops.  He did not.  However, as I said, at that time at least he did something.  He met his absolutely minimum legal obligation.

Now here’s where I have the most difficulty, and where Paterno steps into the unforgivable.  I will quote what Paterno did next:

.”

That is simply unacceptable.  Paterno met his legal obligation, but utterly failed in his moral responsibility, as did every other person connected to this scandal.  For several years after the initial incident, Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, and other high-ranking administrators did absolutely nothing while Jerry Sandusky had sexual intercourse with ten year old boys.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Wait, I take that back.  Sandusky was allowed on the sidelines of Penn State football games, often accompanying a young boy.  He was allowed access to Penn State facilities, often accompanying a young boy.  He was allowed to keep his good name and his Second Miles Foundation, often accompanying a young boy.  See the pattern?  By their inaction, men that should have done more allowed young boys to be shattered and broken.  And that I cannot forgive.  Understand, I do not think that anyone other than Jerry Sandusky actively harmed children.  That is all on him, and him alone.  But each and every other adult in this tragedy are culpable for their inaction.  It is not enough that Paterno later said hd “should have done more.”  To me that is hardly a mea culpa.  Had he said that he was wrong, and he was so, so sorry for what he didn’t do, that would be something.  But he did not.  It appears to me that he was more concerned about Penn State football that he was for young boys being molested by a serial pedophile.

It is, to me, unacceptable to believe the equivalent of “Look at all the good that Paterno did.”  One could use that argument about Hitler (and no, don’t get in a twist, I am not comparing Joe Paterno to Hitler).  Look at all the “good” that came out of the experiments carried out on those in the Third Reich’s concentration camps.  Does the good out-weigh the bad?  Certainly not.  Nor does the “good” that Paterno did cleanse the stain from his inaction.

Further, I have heard Paterno’s situation equated to Pete Rose.  Not even close.  Pete Rose never harmed a young boy, nor were young boys harmed because of his actions or inactions.  Not the same, and no comparison.

Further, I have heard the rationale that since I am a cop, it is somehow “different” for me.  Sorry, that doesn’t cut it either.  My Dad was the best man I have ever known, and I can guarantee you that even in his 70’s (he died at age 80), he would not have twiddled his thumbs (to use one of his expressions) were he to have heard directly from someone who had seen a child molested in such a way.

I know there are those that support Paterno, and I do not look down my nose at them.  I believe such support wrong, but it does not make me despise them.  I believe such support to be misguided, and motivated by hugely identifying oneself with Penn State.  It looks to me like “worshiping the man,” or being devoted to one person rather than ideals.  I cannot help but be outraged at the damage done those boys, and I cannot get past that.   You know what?  I wouldn’t even mind the Paterno supporters as much if they were to agree with all I said here, but in spite of all this still appreciated what Paterno did.  But I’m not seeing that.  It appears to me to be blind devotion to the legend that was Paterno, and not seeing the man for what he was.  Flawed, human, devoted to Penn State football, yes, but terribly incorrect in what he failed to do to protect those children.

Last point.  Regarding Sandusky’s wife, I have zero sympathy for her as well.  Either she knew what was going on and turned a blind eye to it, in which case she should be in a cell with a 300 pound mother named “Bertha,” or she did not know what was going on and refuses to believe the truth once presented, and that makes her a useless human being.  Further, what Penn State did to Paterno’s wife was simply wrong.  This was Paterno’s issue, not hers, and they should be ashamed for how they mistreated her.

So.  In the end, I cannot support Paterno.  Had this been anyone else, I would not feel more, or less, outraged.  Think of any well-known figure.  George Bush.  Donald Trump.  Bill Clinton.  A favorite uncle.  A cousin you have known your entire life.  Would your support for Paterno, or your outrage at his inaction be any different if it were any of the men I named?  For me, it would be exactly the same.  I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in justice.

I hope this does not create a firestorm like my first Facebook post did.  But we will see.

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