I know without saying much, I’ve already offended many and if you’re mad and I’ve lost you, thanks for stopping by, but – if you’re irritated and will bear with me long enough (& yes long enough b/c I can write a lot in a very short amount of time) to let me explain myself – awesome.
Per Wikipedia, let me first remind everyone: “Former FBI director Louis Freeh, whose firm was hired by the Penn State Board of Trustees to conduct an independent investigation into the scandal, concluded, after interviewing over 400 people and reviewing over 3.5 million documents, that Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz had deliberately conspired to conceal Sandusky’s actions in order to protect publicity surrounding Penn State’s vaunted football program. Freeh’s investigation found that by their actions, the four men “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” The report concluded that Paterno, along with Schultz, Spanier and Curley “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities.”
Also via Wiki: On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of the 48 charges of sexual abuse of young boys. (although I so badly wanted to, I refrained from CAPS LOCKS and a bazillion exclamation points for emphasis on that).
^^ was for all the folks who have their undies in a twist about “poor Joe Paterno and his ‘legacy.’” We’ve all heard by now that Joe Paterno’s statue has been removed from Penn State and that the university, football team, former players and more are all being penalized in some way for what transpired all of which made me very happy – so much so that when a friend showed me an article about the statue being removed, “yaaaay!” came out of my mouth (my mom blames the “justice seeker” in me on my being Jhansi Ki Rani in my past life – I blame my being a Libra). I know most won’t be able to see it this way, but Joe Paterno did what he did/didn’t do what we believe he should have done, because we live in a society that encourages exactly that kind of behavior.
It is interesting because when we are children we have a very black and white sense of good and bad, right and wrong. We see “bad/wrong” and we tug on our mom’s skirt telling her that so and so did this and that. We can express it clearly and we might even take a stance against bad/wrong without realizing that we even are. However, once we get older, black and white turns into gray which is where Paterno and most of us reside. That gray is a state of self-absorption, narcissism, blind eye turning, what serves me is more important than what serves anyone else/the greater good, no one else is saying/doing anything so why should I, not being able to see those who get hurt (the countless young adults who were sexually abused and whose lives – if not ruined – were set on a negative trajectory) as connected to you, and if nothing else, if you have children/one day wish to have children seeing those who were affected as daughters and sons and realizing that what happened to them could very well happen to your own sons & daughters.
Joe Paterno was the head coach… he was powerful, a “leader” and a role model… he could not have possibly believed what Sandusky was doing was okay… he had kids himself whom I can’t imagine he would be okay with being sexually abused… he had to have known the negative life-altering effect this was having on those individuals… we can only assume that he didn’t support child sexual abuse, so if he didn’t, he had the moral responsibility to take the most severe action – not turn a blind eye day in and day out, not actively hide what Sandusky was doing, and not be capable of being okay with Sandusky as if he wasn’t doing this heinous, repulsive and disgusting thing.
We all believe that if we had been in that situation, we would have done the right thing, but having gone through something horrific recently in my adult life that I could not have imagined in a million years, I assure you that most people – it doesn’t matter whether they are a coach, community “leader,” member of a respectable profession or prominent social position – will turn a blind eye, do absolutely nothing and worse, some will even perpetuate/enable the negative behavior as Paterno did, even when the blatant opportunity to do the right thing presents itself.
When it comes to sports, it blows my mind – actually, it just plain old disturbs me – how crazy town people get whether it’s the looting and riots in Vancouver last year or the riots that took place when everything with Paterno-Sandusky first went public in spite of the latter situation having to do with child abuse. Child abuse. CHILD FREAKING SEXUAL ABUSE!!! (Sorry I couldn’t help myself anymore). What many people cared more about was Paterno once being a “great coach” and his “legacy;” they were upset at it being “unfair” that all of Paterno’s “good” was being lost in all of this and as the penalties/punishments were recently doled out, they found them to be too severe.
Those who think that way are unable to put themselves in the shoes of those abuse victims… they can’t wrap their brains around what that must have felt like and how the lives of those individuals – and the lives of everyone they will ever be connected to (imagine being a spouse to or child of someone who was sexually abused) – are forever changed… how painful it must have been for these individuals to have watched Penn State’s football team lead by Paterno and Sandusky glorified for however many years as they were suffering in silence.
Until our values as a society change and instead of becoming raging violent monsters over a game, we become enraged and empowered in the face of a moral offense like the one committed by Paterno, Sandusky and others involved, we need to stop talking about any of these things as if we actually care and had it been us, we would have done “the right thing.” We need to internalize and fully understand that what Joe Paterno did is unforgivable (again, if you have a child in your life that you care about/wish to have children of your own, one would imagine you agree), and if we are sympathetic towards or can understand why Paterno did what he did, then as the title of this blog said… we are Joe Paterno.
If we had found out that he was the one who committed the abuse would we have been as sympathetic? Well, what I’m about to say is going to rock your world, but as far as I’m concerned, he DID commit the abuse. Watching a crime happen – and one as heinous as child abuse – and doing/saying nothing which could result in the crime-stopping (we all agree that Paterno had the power to stop what he knew was happening, right?) IS a crime in and of itself, and Joe Paterno is fortunate that he passed before having to have been given his deserved punishment.
If I am watching a rape, robbery, a child being abused, a woman experiencing domestic violence, and I whisper to myself “oh no, this awful thing is happening” hoping someone hears me, I have not done my part; my part means making sure that I am heard, and even if what I say falls on deaf ears that I say it again and again until what I am saying is more than being heard, but is being understood so that the appropriate action can be taken and that the offense stop. Again, most people feel all high and mighty about their moral fiber and think that “if it was them” they would do the right thing, but all I can say is that’s highly unlikely and if nothing else, most people’s “doing the right thing” is dependent on the situation, circumstances and the offense. Many will get into an uproar over child abuse but what about other moral offenses?
What would you do if taking a stand meant putting your livelihood at risk, having your life be threatened (usually when you go against powerful people, this is pretty much a given), taking on awkwardness with involved parties or those who care about involved parties, putting relationships on the line and even possible legal repercussions/marring your own reputation…? (Savannah Dietrich and her family taking a stand is the perfect example of this)
For example, if you knew your boss was sexually harassing a co-worker and you saw it happen, would you be the one to confront him when he is committing the act and report him to HR after? How would your response change if it was your direct report vs. the CEO? How likely would you be to “blow the whistle” if you knew your company was engaging in unethical activities and take that kind of controversy, scrutiny and burden upon yourself (months, likely years in court), for coming forward? How often do you see or know of something that feels/is wrong and take any action against it? Most importantly, how many of us can actually care about the greater good and truly believe that an offense against one of us is an offense against all of us?
I will end there for today, and yes, I realize that a lot of the stuff I have been writing about lately has nothing to do with being South Asian, but it has everything to do with being human and at the end of the day, that’s the one thing I care about more than anything else.
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~ Elie Wiesel
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. ~ Albert Pike (Thanks, Carl)
By Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.”
“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”