Penn State

Well, that’s about as painful as it gets.  All of a sudden UW going 0-12 a few years back, and keeping Tyrone Willingham around purely out of Seattle racial guilt, doesn’t look quite as bad as it felt at the time.  I guess when they say ‘it could always be worse,’ this would be what they meant.

For those unfamiliar with the story, evidently a Penn State assistant football coach has been raping young boys at their facilities for a decade at least, and evidently the coaching staff and university knew to varying degrees that it was going on, and didn’t take steps to put a stop to it.  PSU’s head coach, Joe Paterno, was the longest-tenured and most admired coach in US college football, the symbol of Doing It Right.  So the idea of such an upstanding figure looking the other way, in a case like this, is something just about no one can feel neutral about.  The issue here:  while it happening is bad enough, people who know it happens–and allow it to continue–share at least some of the guilt.  In one especially bad aspect, an assistant (named, disastrously, McQueary) actually caught the rapist in the act at one point, and didn’t do anything about it so far as we’re aware.

Paterno, the AD, the boy-raping assistant, someone else in the athletic department and the president of the university have all been sacked, and several will face felony charges (not Paterno).  Look ahead to about ten years of litigation (probably longer than Paterno will live; he’s 84, had coached there since I was a toddler), profiting only lawyers.  The students are somewhat rioting in support of Paterno, and the country is taking sides.  You either want him and everyone involved hanging from a lamppost, or you think it’s a horrible disservice to the most visible symbol the school ever had.

My own take is that I don’t see either side doing a damn thing for the real victims, which are the boys who got raped.  I see all anger and recrimination, and I understand why, but I do not understand why no one can seem to spare some emotion for those who suffered most.  They certainly suffered more than a half dozen six- (in one case seven-) figure employees, though if a couple of those can’t buy their way into the nice jails, or out of jail altogether, those may get a taste of what the original victims experienced.  My dominant emotion here is not fury and punishment, but what can we do for the real innocents?

I wish I heard more of that, and less rioting and screaming and such.  We get so angry in these situations we forget to invest some energy in support for and kindness to the most damaged.

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