My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Thursday, November 10, 2011

say it ain't so... Joe

As you know, I'm a huge fan of college football. And I've admitted before that I'm really a fan of FANS. I love the passion and tradition that surround the sport. I will never be that girl on the front row of the student section leaning over the railing with a foam number one hand over my hand screaming "we're number one" as the tv camera pans the crowd. But I will sit here in my cozy nest and laugh my self silly that she's so caught up in the spirit of things that she's proclaiming her unranked team "number one".

College football is a big deal but we can't lose our perspective. A grown man was known to violate a ten year old boy on the campus of Penn State and people with power - including someone who was arguably the most powerful man in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - failed to stop this grown man from hurting others. And the evidence seems to show that he did hurt others. The numbers are growing but even if you just look at the eight victims in the complaint that was filed against him... he hurt 8 kids too many.

I forced myself to read through the entire complaint. I think it's about 23 pages. I was so traumatized and horrified that for the past three days it's been all I can think about. If you haven't read it, don't. Please just take my word for it. This was a very sick man doing horrific things to children under the guise of being a great mentor and friend to children. It's so horrific that if my children weren't already grown, I wouldn't let them be on any sports team, spend the night away from home, belong to any club or group that I couldn't control. It's simply evidence of pure depravity.

I've considered many times over the past few days whether or not Joe Paterno should be forced to end his career at Penn State over these allegations. I've thought about career ethics and legal requirements that we face in our chosen professions. And I've pondered this all in the shadows of the conviction of Conrad Murray. Is there an implied obligation of due diligence above and beyond the letter of the law or the requirements of our job?

If a house was on fire, would you drive past it....go discuss it with a trusted confidant... make an appointment to see your boss and trust him to call 9-1-1 without ever making sure the fire was put out? Or would you stop your car... pull out your cell phone and call 9-1-1... watch and wait until emergency response gets there... make sure that help has arrived and only then go back on your way? Many of us would go further... we might do our best to make sure the inhabitants of the home were safely out... we might make photos to assist the media... if the inhabitants weren't home we might try to find out from a neighbor how to get in touch with those people.

Some things require more than just meeting the letter of the law. I know that there are things that DO require additional guidance for how to proceed. If I saw a co-worker who was acting unethically, I would pray about it... and possibly seek the advice of a trusted advisor before taking it to my boss. But if those actions were causing immediate and undeniable harm to another human being, especially a child, I would act immediately and explain my choice later, if necessary.

Another analogy popped out in front of me yesterday.... I was going in the Dollar Store and there was a small child wandering toward the door. It's a cramped and crowded store and it's difficult for someone of my height to see over the aisles... but a quick scan of the people in the immediate vicinity didn't reveal a woman who looked like the mother of this child... it didn't reveal anyone who was looking for a child... I didn't scream out or cause alarm but I did keep an eye on the child until someone came to prevent him from going outside. If that child had gotten out into the street and been hurt or killed... he wasn't my responsibility to watch... I wouldn't have been found guilty of child endangerment for walking past him in a store... but morally... ethically... I would have failed that child.

Joe Paterno failed that child in the showers of his athletic department in 2002. The young graduate assistant who witnessed the rape failed that child. He should have run into that shower... pulled the evil man OFF of that child... rendered him incapable of continuing what he was doing by physical force if necessary... called 9-1-1... comforted the child until police arrived. That would have been the end of Jerry Sandusky's violence toward children. When this graduate assistant went to his FATHER for advice... the father should have called the police, not encourage his son to contact Joe Paterno. When Joe Paterno found out... he should have done everything within his power to have that man - even if he was his friend - Joe should have made sure he was behind bars and never had the opportunity to harm another child.

And so on and so forth up the chain of command. About a half dozen men had the opportunity to do something to put out that fire and they all failed to do so. Instead... they took his keys. They slapped him on the wrists, told him to not bring any more children on campus. But they didn't attempt to find out who the child was. They didn't alert the police. They had no way of truly monitoring this pedophile's exposure to children. As a result, a subsequent seven additional children are known to have been harmed. Since Monday another dozen or so have come forward with similar stories about their experience at the hands of this depraved man.

People who have been given powerful positions have powerful responsibility. The graduate assistant may not - after the fact - have been able to persuade the police to believe what he saw truly happened. The police would have believed Joe Paterno.
Did Joe Paterno molest those children? No. Did he do anything to stop them from being molested? No.
Did Conrad Murray kill Michael Jackson? No. But he made poor choices that caused his death.

It's sad for this great tradition in college football to end this way... it's sad that a University that has done great things over the years - including educating my former mother in law, a wonderful woman and respected educator - this University employed people who acted not just unethically, but also immorally. Criminal acts were committed against precious, innocent children on their campus. For the students rioting in protest of the firing of Joe Paterno...instead of rioting ... perhaps contrition... prayer for these lives that were forever harmed... a call for moral, ethical leadership in all areas of the school would be a better use of their time and energy.

Happy Thursday, y'all.