Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Off Topic Tuesday: Penn State and Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno is, in a way, a victim of his own celebrity. Everyone knows him or has at least heard of him and so it is no surprise that his name would be splashed on all the headlines. Even more importantly though, I think is his reputation as being the upstanding, “good guy” of the college football world. This, I think, is partly why we always hear more about “family values” politicians or Christian ministers or priests who do something wrong than we do about others, because the liberal media loves nothing more than tearing down the champions or the symbols of strong, traditional values. Few people realize, for example, that children are far more likely to be molested by a public school employee than by their priest or pastor but (unless the teacher is ‘hot’) you don’t hear much about school employees because the all-powerful government and all of its little minions must be protected in the modern, big-government era we live in. I also think we should not deny that, again due to the media, be it TV, music or movies, we have a frankly sex-crazed culture, even including children (have you seen the “beauty pageants” for children on TV? Porn for pedophiles if you ask me).
Based on what has come out so far, I fail to see why so much blame is being heaped on Joe Paterno. The first person I would take issue with is the grad student who claims to have seen with his own eyes Sandusky raping a 10-year-old in the shower. He reported this to Paterno and that is being seized upon but my question would be why he (and he’s a big guy) didn’t right then go over and beat that nasty old pervert within an inch of his life? He says he told his father and then told Paterno but, realistically, what more was Paterno to do other than alert his own superiors which he did? What other action was he supposed to take? Many say he should have gone to the police, well, the same could be said about the witness, the witness’ father and even if Paterno had gone to the police right then, what was he to tell them? He had no evidence, Sandusky would have surely denied it and so all he had was the word of the grad student. Hardly enough to hang someone with I would think. Now, it must be said, that there has been talk (just talk) about numerous people knowing what Sandusky was up to for a long time and doing nothing about it. I can’t really speak to that because there are no specifics being given. The only specifics I have heard talked about on the news concern the disgusting shower incident.
My concern with all of this, and this is not to detract from the pedophilia crime but relates to how we deal with it in the future (everyone would agree it is reprehensible), is that we seem to be going down a road where people can be ruined by gossip. When you think about it, based only on what is known now, people called for the dismissal and the blackening of Joe Paterno because he didn’t take action based on any evidence produced or anything he himself witnessed but because he didn’t take action based on what someone said that they had seen. It seems in this case it was a fact, but how was Paterno to know that? What if it had not been? How easy would it be to ruin someone with a lie when the police are called in based on rumor rather than evidence or an actual eye witness (because, again, the eye witness didn’t go to police, he went to the coach)? It seems to me we could be going down a road where one rumor, maliciously planted by someone with ill-motives could be used to destroy a good person and it doesn’t even have to concern anything the good person in question did but rather how they responded to the rumor!
Ultimately, this would only work to the benefit of actual child molesters as it would be so easy to just say you heard someone else say that someone had done something to a child that the actual criminals would escape under the flood of false allegations or police burning up man hours chasing down rumors rather than actual evidence or eye witness reports. Are we to all become spies and police informants? I am not trying to downplay this by any means. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not just being dramatic when I say that child molesters and rapists should not just be arrested but should be put to death -and if I had my way, slowly and painfully. I mean that. Anyone who would do such a thing cannot be treated, cannot be cured and cannot be rehabilitated. Destroying them would be doing everyone a favor. What I do object to or what at least concerns me is that someone of good reputation, who did no harm to anyone, can have their name blackened and their reputation which years of good work built destroyed because they didn’t act based on something someone told them with no real evidence just an accusation. Jerry Sandusky is the bad guy here, not Joe Paterno (based on what we know so far it bears repeating) who, as far as I know, did not try to cover anything up but passed on what was told to him to his superiors. I ask again, what more was he supposed to do? Was he to lead the football team in a public lynching based on what a grad-student said that he saw but did nothing himself to stop? Who is more responsible to stop a horrible crime; the witness who saw it or the man who heard that someone else saw it? It just seems unfair to me, at this point, to single out Paterno when, even if the worst is true, he would be only one amongst a number of guilty parties. However, the important thing to remember is that the real villain here is Jerry Sandusky -that is the guy who did the crime, that is the name everyone should remember and that is the man who deserves the worst punishment possible for his heinous crimes.
I will leave with this quote from the leader, in the Italian city of Genoa, of the supposedly harsh Roman Catholic Holy Office of the Inquisition who said on the subject of dealing with the accused, “because the mere fact of incarceration for the crime of heresy brings notable infamy to the person, great prudence must be exercised in the jailing of suspects. Thus it will be necessary to study carefully the nature of the evidence, the quality of the witnesses, and the condition of the accused. Let not our reverence be hasty in proceeding to make an arrest because the mere capture, or even rumor of it, causes serious harm.” Now, considering that the Catholic Inquisitor was speaking of the one accused of heresy, to say nothing of the one who may have heard someone was a heretic but did not make an accusation, that so much emphasis was placed on protecting the good name of people who may have been wrongfully accused, I cannot help but ask; have we become more just since the days of the Inquisition or less so? The narrative of this tragedy at Penn State makes me fear that we have, as a society, become not better but worse than our forebears of the allegedly notorious Holy Inquisition.