“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke
Back in high school, my english teacher would do quiz bowl in class on Fridays. It was always girls vs. guys, and most of the time the girls would win. When the score got out of hand, he would ask the guys, “who is the greatest football coach of all time?”
Answer: Joe Paterno.
Maybe he is the greatest of all time, but he will now be known by a failure of leadership and apathetic passivity that resulted in sexual crimes against children in his community. It’s crazy how the greatest coach of our most aggressive team sport could fail through a lack of action.
I spent some time today reading the entire grand jury report. A few things stuck out to me, and one thing haunts me.
1. I am always amazed at how well sexual predators hide their activities behind a facade of goodness, in this case The Second Mile philanthropy, but the church and the Boy Scouts are no different.
Usually, the people closest to them have no idea until they are caught, and then things that never made sense start to fall into place. Most have also had some “near miss” experiences where suspicion was cast on them and they have succeeded in talking their way out of trouble.
2. The actions of Penn State officials is typical – limit our liability and stay out of it. The fear of what might be found prevents further probing.
It is likely Paterno, Schultz, and Curley knew there was more going on than they claim. The action they took – banning him from the locker rooms is at it’s core self-protective.
If they didn’t believe there was a problem, why do it?
And if they thought there was enough of a problem to take this protective measure, there was enough of a problem to follow through with a full investigation.
3. These victims are only the beginning. There are more. There are always more.
4. But the thing I can’t get out of my mind is the Grad Assistant, now the wide-receivers coach Mike McQueary.
Walking into the building to put shoes in his locker, he sees Sandusky sodomizing a 10 year old boy up against the wall in the shower. He says they both saw him. He walked away, “distraught”, and called his father for advice. The next day he told Paterno.
A 28 year old man, an athlete, a former NCAA quarterback, a man training to become a coach of young men, was an eye-witness to a man sodomizing a 10 year old boy and did nothing.
He did not stop the crime taking place in his presence. He did not intervene and did not call the police.
He turned his back. He walked away.
Let’s be clear, his father, Paterno, Schultz, and Curley all failed, miserably, but it should never have gotten that far. McQueary failed first. He had a moral responsibility to act. The first Paterno et al should have heard about it is from McQueary calling from the police station to explain what had happened.
Put yourself there for a moment. I know it is hard. Do it anyway.
You are a 5th grade boy, no father, at least not one that cares to see you, a mother who is barely making ends meet. You are an “at risk” youth, and your school counselor connects you to an organization that specializes in reaching kids like you, helping fill in the gaps.
The director takes notice of you, and what a guy he is. A local celebrity taking interest in you, a nobody. You are one of the chosen. Special. Soon, you are going to some really cool places, the sidelines of Penn State games, golf tournaments, Philadelphia Eagles games – places you never dreamed, meeting people you see on TV, welcomed as part of his family.
You belong. You are wanted. You are loved.
Strange things start to happen, things that make you uncomfortable, things you don’t understand, but you don’t say anything. You aren’t sure what you would say anyway. Nothing has really happened, and you are having a lot of fun. None of the other chosen boys seem concerned. Things progress, you are confused, and soon, this man you trust is victimizing you, exploiting you in the worst of ways.
He is powerful, you are weak.
Who can you tell? Who would believe the former Defensive Coordinator for Penn State, the director of The Second Mile, local hero is raping a 10 year old nobody kid? So you keep your mouth shut and tell yourself you will handle it. You will hide from him, you won’t answer his calls, you won’t be alone with him. But this doesn’t work.
Once again, you find yourself in the place you swore you would never return – victimized. You mentally escape, willing it to end soon, when a savior appears. Your eyes meet.
A moment of shame that he sees you like this. Then relief.
Justice has arrived.
The predator is exposed. This madness will now end.
And then the unthinkable. He walks away.
The soul crushing realization that this man will not intercede on your behalf. You, after all, are not worth defending, and are left in the hands of the predator to do with you what he will.
Despair, shame, and self-loathing wrap themselves around you and don’t let go.
9 and 1/2 years later, they hold you still. A ten year old boy, now a 20 year old man searching for a cure for the pain.