I’m not about to turn this into “that” kind of blog – this post is an anomaly, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
Former coach Joe Paterno died over the weekend. I didn’t think I was emotionally involved in the “scandal” until I found myself in the middle of a diatribe. Disgusted and horrified, yes; I didn’t realize I was angry. “Scandal” – such a word to cover what has been, if the stories are true, severe damage to children by someone they trusted, never stopped by people who might have been able to stop it. I don’t know any more about the situation than the news stories have told, but there seems to be little doubt that the victims who have come forward are telling the truth. I hope to God they are, because if not they are more twisted than I can wrap my mind around.
If they are telling the truth, though, it means that after, allegedly, he made one attempt to notify higher-ups, he did nothing more, even though no action was taken. Which means, to me, without knowing anything else, that every day there was a decision that had to be made to act or not, and every day the decision was made not to act. Which, to me, is moral cowardice.
Would I have done something? Ratted out a colleague, rattled cages, taken a step which might have, yes, saved children a lot of agony but also would have been hard and painful and ugly? When I was younger I would have, fiercely, said “God, yes!” Now I know to say “God, I hope so.” The sad fact is that no one can predict how they will react in a crisis. But I hope and believe that I would have the strength and courage to put myself last and others first and rattle those cages, and keep rattling until something happened.
They keep talking about his “legacy”. It wouldn’t make me popular in some circles to say I don’t much care about football wins, or money donated to a university; I do respect his record and would respect his motto of “success with honor” more if circumstances had not fallen out as they had. For me the whole story boils down to one quote, which may or may not be attributable to Edmund Burke:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.