Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Are...Disturbed

Last week, many of my students blogged about the recent events at Penn State. In class, we debated several questions, including: 1) Should all state residents who witness child sexual abuse be "mandatory reporters"  (i.e. legally obligated to report such crimes to the police)? 2) Was the dismissal of Joe Paterno an appropriate action for the university to take? Some interesting viewpoints were put forward in our discussions on both sides of both questions.

As for my own perspective, I found all the news coming out of State College profoundly disturbing on multiple levels:

  1. First and foremost, the crimes themselves are indescribably disturbing. To think that a man founded an organization to help disadvantaged kids, and used this organization as the means and cover for abusing such kids for over a decade, is to become conscious of a special kind of evil. Sandusky clearly belongs in the lowest ring of Hell, along with Judas, getting his brains chewed out by Satan, frozen in a lake of the dark angel's tears.
  2. The concerted effort among many administrators to cover up these crimes also appears soul-defilingly wrong. It seems that the athletic director, coach Paterno, and other officials knew something was wrong at least as early as the late 1990s, had that confirmed in 2002, and still failed to take sufficient action to protect the children (past, present, and future) victimized by this monster. Yes, Paterno's dismissal was justified. No, he should not receive $500,000 per year for his retirement. Use that money for need- and merit-based scholarships. (And by merit, I mean academic merit -- not athletic merit.)
  3. The failure to intervene by those--most notably Mike McQueary--who witnessed these crimes actually taking place, also challenges one's comprehension of human decency. Now, on some level, I can understand that witnessing such an act must be shocking, and that such shock can potentially paralyze the witness. Who really knows how he/she would respond to such a sight? One of my students said he would have killed Sandusky, personally, vigilante-style. Another student (female, <120 pounds), said she would have picked up a chair and clobbered him with it. I have no idea what I would have done, but I hope to God I would have done more than run away and not call the cops.
  4. The response to the firing of Paterno by Penn State students (i.e. rioting) also disturbed me. Now, I am all for protesting. The Occupy Wall Street folks, for example, have my sympathy and support. And I also would have been understanding had Penn State students rioted in response to the inexcusable conspiracy to cover-up crimes against children by their university's administration. But I cannot understand rioting against Paterno's dismissal. "JoePa" (ugh!) is not the victim here.
  5. Similarly distasteful have been media reports that emphasize the "suffering" of students and alumni who are "struggling" with the damage to their school's image. Penn State's all-important "brand" will recover with greater expediency than the psyches of those victimized by these traumatic acts of violence. 
  6. Finally, I am disturbed by the cult(ure) at Penn State that made these events possible. Why do people love Penn State and "JoePa" (double ugh!!) so passionately and uncritically? I think it must be a result of the cultish obsession with college football at this campus (and beyond). When your allegiance to a man, an institution, a football team, or a symbol becomes so devout that you are more concerned about preserving the integrity of that man, institution, team or symbol than defending basic human rights, you have cult-ivated quite a perverse and corrupt form of pride. A couple of my students picked up on this in their blogs, and one linked to a great clip from the Daily Show, in which Jon Stewart makes a similar point (as only Jon Stewart can).
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your commentary on this atrocity parallels my own opinions on the matter; I could never have found the precise words to express them the way you did. The student's reaction to Paterno's firing is a case study in tribal Psychology or tribal identity and it's influence on morals. Thank you for this contribution. It gave me something to point at and say "There's how I feel. That guy just said it all."