Friday, November 11, 2011

The Penn State Scandal: Something No One Seems to Notice

Is Hell really other people? I'm starting to deeply believe it.

I'm so incredibly sick of all of the hive-mentality in society. I'm so tired of systems and groups and infrastructures and committees and teams. I'm so tired of everyone confusing morality with laws and only separating the two when it becomes convenient and good for publicity and face-saving.

As just about everyone in the USA knows (and, probably, people all over the world know this, too, by now), the long-time coach of Penn State football has been fired. Joe Paterno is a man who is beloved of anyone who ever attended Penn State (myself included, in the interest of full disclosure). But Paterno was not just a coach. He is an academic who never allowed his players to "slide" on grades and studies. He is also largely responsible for the growth of Penn State from a small college to a big, world-renowned university. In every respect, he was an educator and a gentleman.

What he is in trouble for is that an incident of child molestation was reported to him: A grad-student/coaching assistant named Mike McQueary told Paterno that the he witnessed the defensive coordinator of the team sexually abusing a ten-year-old boy in the showers. Paterno reported this to the school's athletic director and to the university's vice-president, as he was supposed to.

So, the big accusation is that Paterno -- although he fulfilled his legal obligation -- didn't fulfil his moral obligation and follow up on it later. This is why he was fired.

You might think I'm about to defend Paterno. No so. Even Paterno admits "in hindsight" that he should have done more. I agree. But what blows my mind is that no one is focusing any blame on that grad student, Mike McQueary, who witnessed the violation of a ten-year-old. One account of his reaction:

Then 28, McQueary was "distraught" after witnessing the alleged 2002 assault, according to the indictment. Yet it appears he may have continued to participate in fundraising events with Sandusky — including one held less than a month later.
He was distraught? What about the child he didn't save? How distraught do you think he was? (And, clearly, he wasn't distraught enough to stop hanging out with a monster whom he had seen committing monstrous acts.)

Now, it would seem, McQueary (who was not fired, nor asked to "step down") is getting threats, probably from idiot football fans who blame him for Paterno's dismissal. But I haven't heard, from anyone, that the biggest problem with all of this is that McQueary is a spineless, worthless piece of human refuse.

Is everyone else blind? Blind to what happened? Blind to personal responsibilty? -- real moral responsibility? Are we so kind and compassionate that we want to create groups, infrastructures and laws to protect our children, and, yet, can't see that the second most reprehensible person in all of this (next to, of course, Sandusky, who is alleged to have molested the kids) is McQueary?

What kind of a man watches a child getting raped and then goes to "report" it to someone? A strong, young former Penn State football player sees this heinous act being committed and he doesn't use his muscle stop it from happening?  (And please, don't tell me anything to the effect of "he was scared" -- he was a 28-year-old man; though, I use the word "man" loosely.)

And no one sees this as a problem? No one has mentioned this?

Are there any real men left in the world? I'm not talking about tough guys who strut and bark at everyone. I'm talking about someone with enough compassion for a suffering little boy that he might be able to muster the courage to physically stop a molester who is violating that boy right in front of him.

There are a lot of heads in asses in this world. It is mind-boggling.

Paterno had a moral obligation to do more. I agree. Paterno agrees. He's paying for his poor choice with a dark fog that will always float around the memory of an exemplary life of summer and sunshine.

Has it bothered McQueary that he witnessed the destruction of a young life and that he did nothing? (Nothing but run away and "tell," like a kid who witnessed a playground squabble.) I certainly hope it bothers him, because it doesn't seem to bother anyone else -- so far I seem to be the only writer who is sickened by his inaction on that day, in that locker room.

Why don't we convene a task force to figure this out and then run it by a freaking committee so that when it get lost in the gears, we can all, once again, find value in the individual -- at least temporarily, so that we can blame someone important and then "decisively" dismiss him? At least, that way, we can prove to all of the papers that we care deeply about the welfare of children.

It makes me want to give up. I swear to God, it does.

But I pledge this to everyone who is reading these words: If I ever see someone hurting your little boy or your little girl, I will stop him or die in trying. That's not heroics; that's being human; that's operating as a moral individual. It's basic. I hope someone else sees it that way, because if no one does, we're lost. Completely.

(THIS JUST IN: I'm not alone, thank goodness. See this article by Amy Boshnack. [Hat tip: Scott Stein] But that is just one. Let me know if you see anyone else chiming in on this.)


  1. Thanks, Brian.

    Scott -- thank God. I was beginning to feel like the guy in the horror movie who sees the ghost no one else does. (The link didn't work quite right, but I at least saw the title. I'll find it later,for sure.)

  2. Scott -- it worked. Thanks -- a great piece. Everyone should read it.

  3. My husband and I had this conversation just last night, right after the 'so Penn State students are rioting in support of rape?' conversation. We are as baffled and outraged about this as you are.

  4. Finally!!!! My father and I have been saying this for a long time. I cannot defend Paterno, or anyone else's actions in this, but the university has failed in their goal to "restore integrity." They simply attacked figure heads to appease the media. If Paterno was fired, McQueary should have gone right along with him. As should the two men indicted on these crimes, rather than put on "administrative leave." Did they not also fail in their moral obligations?

    I truly feel sorry for the players in this whole situation. I feel that they have been overlooked, (as have the victims in a lot of cases). These are kids between 18-22, and were having a strong season without any accusations or scandals which are found within so many programs today. Now I have heard people talk about giving Penn State the "death penalty," a punishment which shuts down a program for 1-2 years. This punishment has been given one time since it was created, and destroyed the SMU program. (By the way if you want to see an amazing documentary of that I recommend "Pony Excess.") These players have now lost their head coach, a man they respected, have a campus that is swirling with reporters, and may have very well lost a BCS game, and any memories that they could look back upon from their college days. There are a lot of victims, but there some overlooked ones who may be playing in an empty stadium on saturday.


  5. 'nora and Papi -- again, it is good to hear others think what I do about this.

  6. I'm totally with you on this too, Chris. I agree that there's a grave groupthink problem here--and I'd maintain that if someone is getting paid millions of dollars and people are literally building statues of him, we need to start seeing that not as a reward for past success but as an assumption of profound responsibility.

  7. That was one of the first things I said to Matt. I'll tell you what, if I was there I would have yelled "Get the f--k away from him!" at the top of my lungs and obviously I'm not much of a threat at five foot one. One would think it would be a normal reaction to stop the act. Unbelievable.

  8. Jeff -- "if someone is getting paid millions of dollars and people are literally building statues of him, we need to start seeing that not as a reward for past success but as an assumption of profound responsibility." Amen.

    Gina -- I still can't get over the lack of action. Part of me still thinks it must not be true -- that no one could be that worthless as a human being.

  9. Mr. Matt, I am no Penn St alum, so I feel no particular attachment to Joe Paterno, and I do think that he could and should have taken a stronger action, but I agree wholeheartedly that McQueary is the easiest secondary target (and justly so). He failed to act when he saw a horrendous crime being perpetrated that any of us are certain we would move to stop (I, for one, do not think I would be able to avoid jail time for assault were I to observe this particular action).

    At the same time, I want to assert that the most immoral person here is Sandusky, and that any and all individuals who did not act to remove Sandusky from his role after learning of his actions is secondarily guilty of a crime, regardless of their general moral worth. JoePa reported the crime to his AD, and both of them should have reported it to the police. McQueary is guilty of the same crime, though he has that unconscionable inaction to add to his; personally, I have difficulty not hating McQueary right now, and I feel as though he is the very image of social human excrement.

    Additionally, I found a blog post that is related only insofar as it discusses the Penn St case, but it approaches the issue of what penalty is appropriate. A coworker told me she feels that Sandusky should be put to death, to which I tried to respond, but I was so flabbergasted I was uncertain what to say. I learned that a number of people are actually calling for the death penalty, and this post was a fortuitous find for me that very much illustrates my feelings on the death penalty, particularly as related to this case (the author uses the movie "The Proposition" to illustrate his/her point)

  10. Thanks, Matt, for the insight. I will check out the link.

    In my opinion, killing is never the answer, though I do undertand the emotional reaction of your co-worker. Does he deserve death -- many would say so. Do we have a right to kill him? No. Not in my value system.