Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dishonourable Discharge

It is probably impossible for anyone in the US not to have heard the news surrounding Penn State.  As a Big Ten fan, I am all too familiar with Penn State, but have, thankfully, seen my Michigan Wolverines best them in most things of late.  But this blog isn’t about sports.

Please just hear me out before rallying your pitchforks.  What is happening at Penn State is wrong.  Joe Paterno deserves better, those kids who were violated deserve better, but at some point, the right thing needs to be done.  More than anything, what do we actually know?  I have spent a good amount of time watching and reading articles, and barring one victim’s parent that has come out to speak, we only know the culpability of Jerry Sandusky, the man who allegedly violated children in what can only be described as the most grotesque and horrifying ways.  What Sandusky did, if proven to be true, is wrong, and he should pay.  He should have life-time cell-mate named Bubba that is his special friend.  But what facts do we actually know?

Here’s my issue, and feel free to point me to your online proof – but what has the Commonwealth Attorneys’ office of Pennsylvania come out and said?  They’ve talked about what Sandusky is accused of doing, they’ve talked about Paterno being aware of what was occurring, but to what extent?

My argument is simple, really, why don’t we wait and see what actually happened?

Right now, we’re basing all this outrage on supposition.  And what is that saying about making assumptions?  I am not trying to minimise what are terrible circumstances – those kids deserved someone to stand up for them, and to have someone like Sandusky taking advantage of kids who were in need is disgusting.  But is the issue that we should be going after Sandusky or going after Penn State, and by extension, Joe Paterno.

I’ll fully admit, yes, Joe Paterno, as the face and head of Penn State football should have done more when he heard what was going on.  And the actions that Sandusky was allowed to commit are atrocious, and to be able to continue those actions without fear of reprisal is of course intolerable.  But at what point are we holding Paterno to a standard that most people wouldn’t be able to meet?  I’m not absolving anyone of guilt; I’m not saying things occurred that shouldn’t have.  But what purpose does it serve to bring Joe Paterno down in this disgusting scandal when his crime is no worse than any other Americans?

I, perhaps foolishly, made a comment in the forums about this, saying, most people avoid confrontation.  Does that make it right?  No, I get that.  And I work for a public safety agency (I should just come out and say it, I work for a Police Department), and in more cases than not, things like this go unnoticed or not acted upon out of fear.  Did Joe hesitate where he should have acted?  Of course, anyone can say that in hindsight.  The real issues here are not the over-hyped, poorly written articles all over, but the fact that we’re being forced to focus our anger on Joe Paterno for doing what most people would have done in his situation.

The most Joe Paterno is guilty of is not doing the right thing, of being a coward.  Does that make it a fireable offence?  Does that mean his should be the head on the platter?  I’d argue no.

The mistake Joe made was egregious; it put the lives of more kids in Sandusky’s path that should have been protected.  But what about all of Paterno’s superiors?  He took the information given to him by his grad student and told his bosses.  Could he have done more?  Yes, but as anyone who has worked in any kind of job, you report issues to your bosses and expect them to act.

I can go in circles talking about how Paterno didn’t do the right thing, but legally, he did what he had to. The argument is being made that he should have contacted the police.  In a similar situation, is that what you would have done?  I get run-downs every day of things of this nature, happening every day and they all read basically the same – the victims come forward.  I have read maybe a few that have said, it was reported by a third party.  It is awful, I agree, but that is the state of it.  Again, this isn’t an excuse, but in most circumstances, it isn’t a hero that comes in and is an avenging angel, something Paterno could have been, but it is usually the victim realising what shouldn’t be occurring and standing up for themselves.

I only ask this – that we not jump to conclusions.  Joe Paterno is paying a heavy price for making a bad decision.  The media is enjoying every second of it, but me, I’m going to lament the tragedy that befall needy children in the Penn State community  for years, and the unceremonious way a man who made that university what it is today is being treated.  The only winners in this travesty are ESPN and the rest of the media circus.  Those kids won’t get justice, Sandusky won’t get justice and Paterno isn’t getting justice.

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