Friday, November 11, 2011

Nauseated

I wish the post title was in reference to some sort of early pregnancy symptoms, but alas...nothing to report there.  Instead, it's in reference to my feelings about this whole Penn State scandal.  It's not often I get into posting about current events or politics, but geez, I just can't let this one slide.  The scandal makes me so angry.  And I don't think I'd feel quite that way (at least not as strongly) if I wasn't a parent.  Particularly a parent of a sports-obsessed little boy.

I get it.  I mean, Joe Paterno has been coaching at Penn State since my parents were in junior high, for goodness sakes.  He's a legend.  And obviously, to still be working at a job like that at 84 years old, he definitely loved it--and they loved him.  The other night we were watching ESPN as they showed footage of students gathering on campus and at Paterno's house.  The group got a little violent later in the night, but for the most part they were just there to support Paterno.  Lovely gesture, but misguided sympathy, if you ask me.  The guy helped cover up serious atrocities committed against innocent boys.  Yes, he told the powers that be at the school, but when nothing came of it, how could he possibly stand by knowing it was still going on?  How can a man that deals with a huge group of guys, probably most of whom he'd consider to be like sons to him, not be absolutely disgusted and appalled at the thought of any one of them being abused by anyone?  I'm not talking about specifics here, as I don't believe Jerry Sandusky touched any of the Penn State players.  I'm just talking about the same level of disgust I feel as a parent even thinking about someone taking those liberties with my son.  How could he not look at his players and think how angry he'd be if someone had touched them when they were younger, too young to appropriately defend themselves?  That's what I don't get. 

I understand that people are arguing that Paterno didn't commit a crime.  In some places it may be a crime, but apparently not in Pennsylvania.  To me that's just semantics.  They may not be able to arrest him, and that's fine.  Annoying, but fine.  Some people would argue that since it wasn't a crime, he shouldn't have lost his job.  But how can you deny that his inaction, his willingness to overlook crimes committed by a friend, was so wrong on a moral level that it should cost him his job?  If someone came into your office and murdered your co-worker, and you kept your mouth shut because you knew the murderer, don't you think that alone should be grounds to evict you from your job?  No, those kids weren't killed, but I have to think their spirit was.  And to me, that is enough. 

Maybe the grad student who first witnessed it should have taken matters into his own hands when he saw that nothing was happening, but I can sort of imagine what might have been running through his head.  He was a mere peon amidst giants, and if he did go to the cops, no doubt he'd have been shushed in a big way by the powers that be.  He probably figured it would be career suicide, whereas if Paterno had been the whistleblower, he'd have probably been a hero.  In the years that followed, that student became one of the football coaches himself, so maybe he too should be responsible for not fessing up at some point.  I can't help but wonder if any of the people involved in this scandal, from the grad student on up, regret not telling more than they regret getting caught not telling. 

The account of what that grad student encountered in the shower absolutely haunts me.  To think that a 10-year-old child had to endure anal sex (sorry, graphic but true) from a grown man is beyond horrifying.  It had to be so painful, so confusing, and so life-altering.  These kids were underprivileged kids who were probably just grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this coach's program.  I can imagine they didn't want to say anything for fear they'd lose the opportunities that were no doubt promised to them.  Kids look up to authority figures like coaches and teachers.  They trust them.  And that's what makes these crimes so heinous when they come to light.  These kids were innocent.  They no doubt knew that what was happening was wrong, but I don't think they had any idea HOW wrong.  It hurt them, it allowed a grown-up to have power over them, and had such horrible implications for the rest of their life.  I can't imagine what those victims' present and future hold as far as relationship troubles, sexual problems, trust issues, and haunting nightmares.  As much as this thing had to come to light and may, in the end, bring some closure, I'd have to imagine that reliving all of this stuff now through the media has to be incredibly difficult.  Heck, I wonder if in some twisted way they feel guilty for what happened to Paterno...that it's their fault that he got fired.  God forbid that's the case.

As we were watching the throngs of students that were out and about supporting Paterno that night, I started to get angry.  While this whole situation was already so horrible, my anger went to a new level when I saw that.  I even posted a Facebook status about it.  I can't believe how short-sighted those college kids are, and it sort of supports what I feel like I've seen from so many kids around that age (experience mostly with interns, honestly).  I've long felt that there's a disconnect between cause and effect and a complete denial of consequences.  You see so many college kids coming out into the world thinking that they deserve a $60K per year job (and that's probably conservative), yet they have no experience and no desire to work hard in a crap job to get there.  They've had helicopter parents that were their friends instead of their disciplinarians--the kind of parents that blame the teacher rather than their own child.  I'm not saying all kids are like that, but apparently there was a troublingly large group of kids that valued a man's contribution to a football program over the well being of eight young boys whose innocence was taken from them.  Instead of standing outside Paterno's house, how about holding a candlelight vigil for the real victims of this atrocity?

It makes me physically ill to think of what those kids went through, and I can't even begin to comprehend the craziness that's contained in the mind of Jerry Sandusky.  How anyone could ever think that was okay is just beyond me.  And as a parent, I can't even fathom the venom that would result if anyone so much as laid a finger on Jacob.  I have no doubt that he will have many coaches throughout his sporting life, and it pains me to think that any of them might be untrustworthy.  This whole situation serves as a strong reminder to be vigilant--Keep your eyes and ears open because you never know what tiny little clues your child might let slip.  Even though it's hard for me to fathom, it seems like we might be close to the point where we need to sit down with Jacob and give him a brief, simple talk about private parts and how they need to remain private.  It seems so early, but I guess you never can be too careful.  Of course, I have no idea how we'll get him to sit through and listen to such a serious talk, since we can barely get him to do that for disciplinary purposes.

Anyway, the whole situation is so sickening and it boggles the mind how in a world where people freak out about the most insignificant stuff, a tragedy like this is allowed to go on quietly for years.  God bless those poor kids, and may they find the healing they need.

No comments: