Sexual assault is always an ugly act of violence, but the rape of children is something for which I believe we should employ the death penalty. I don’t care what civil libertarians, humanitarians, and any other would-be do-gooder claims about how such would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. It would at least begin to fit the crime. Frankly, those who commit such wanton violence against children born of some perverse lust for power over the powerless should be dealt with no differently than we handle serial killers, except perhaps that we ought to be more severe. I’m not a sports fan, but even I know of Joe Paterno, but I don’t care how great a coach he has been. I don’t care how many victories he has amassed. I don’t care what form of excuse some might wish to offer. If this, or anything vaguely approximating a fraction of this goes on in your organization, and you know of it, you have a responsibility to take it to the police, the FBI, and whomever else may be available until justice is done. More, if you see it going on, you must act to intervene. No rational, respectable and decent person knows of such things and does what amounts to nothing. For this, there can be no excuse, and to whatever degree the institution of Penn State is damaged, it should be.
Unsubstantiated rumors are now circulating in media that this may have been far worse than we had imagined. It may be that the charitable organization at the heart of these charges, the Second Mile is nothing more than a front for a criminal enterprise to provide young children for the sexual appetites of a paying clientele. Frankly, I hope that turns out to be wrong, because if it is true, it means that this scandal reaches much further into the society and culture of Penn State than most would ever have guessed, and it would mean that this institution needs a thorough clean-out. Something is fundamentally broken there.
Let us now consider the students who rioted in support of Joe Paterno on Wednesday night. I don’t understand what they could possibly be thinking. How can anybody contend with a straight face that Paterno ought to be held blameless and harmless? I realize that they are loyal to their school, its football team, and its coach, but this is a situation that completely obliterates such superficial concerns. Ladies and gentlemen, football is a game, but the lives of the children who have been victimized are real. I am astonished that students who are allegedly being taught to use their higher reasoning abilities could fail to recognize the distinction.
I’d also like to talk about Mike McQueary’s role. He allegedly witnessed an incident involving Sandusky’s predations on a boy in a shower at the athletics complex on University grounds. He turned around and went to report it? Why didn’t he intervene? That’s the action a responsible person must take, so in my view, he isn’t off the hook either. Who among my readers is so confused about the criminal and moral implications of a sexual assault that when witnessing one in progress, would not intervene to stop it? I doubt any of my readers would be so thoroughly derelict.
I simply cannot imagine how excuses are being formulated for anybody involved in this case. There is a story now circulating that the DA who failed to prosecute Sandusky back in 1998 has been missing since 2005, and is now listed officially as presumed dead. The circumstances of his disappearance have never been resolved, and it’s leading to more probing questions about the Penn State scandal. There is rampant speculation that his disappearance might be linked in some way to this case.
What this case makes clear is what happens when people in positions of responsibility fail to act when given information about criminal conduct within their organizations. This is simply sickening, and I am tired of all the excuse-making. I don’t want to hear another word about how Mike McQreary is being threatened. That he witnessed such an act and failed to intervene, and did not insist on the immediate involvement of the appropriate authorities is all I need to know that this is another case of misplaced sympathies. In my view, he had a duty to act, and a moral obligation to see this acted upon in a timely manner. Those who now wish to scapegoat the victims ought to turn their sympathy from Joe Paterno to the victims of these horrendous crimes. Late Thursday, both US Senators from Pennsylvania withdrew their support from Paterno’s nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
We need to get back to the notion of enacting justice, and justice can only begin by affixing blame where it is due. This sickening display of rioting by students loyal to Joe Paterno is symptomatic of the narcissism rampant in our culture, whereby these rioters believe their needs and wants of the moment ought to supersede the pursuit of justice, and the assignment of responsibility. That’s absurd. These educated idiots ought to understand that there are consequences for every action, good or ill, in a just society, and demanding relief from consequences for one person ultimately leads only to relief for others, and no relief is due or proper in this case. It’s sick. It’s diseased thinking. For every child who may have been abused since 2002, when McQueary witnessed what transpired in that shower, he and everybody above him who reviewed or considered his report are guilty of aiding those subsequent abuses, by failing to pursue the original reports vigorously. Remorse and shame simply are not enough. Heads must roll.