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.