“I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence.” These words by rapper Lupe Fiasco have stood out in my head in recent days watching the Penn State incident unfold. The news out of Penn State in the past week has been shocking, saddening and criminal. Jerry Sandusky’s actions were horrible beyond belief. Two pages into the grand jury report on his indictment are enough to make one feel nauseated. Sandusky’s abuse of children, using his position as head of his own organization, The Second Mile, to prey on young boys, and the seeming lack of concern on the part of those who knew of his deeds feels like a bad dream.
It is the silence on the part of those who knew that truly concerns me. Men like former head football coach Joe Paterno, assistant coach Mike McQueary and Joe Miller who saw or heard firsthand accounts of Sandusky’s actions and did the bare minimum to help the victims. This to me is the worst part of the whole incident. At some point, Penn State football and its reputation became more important than the lives of 10-year-old boys being molested by Sandusky. Sure, Joe Pa told his boss what he heard from McQueary but when nothing happened, what did he do? Essentially nothing. He was so worried about his reputation and legacy that he did nothing to stop Sandusky from committing these crimes.
This is a sobering wake up call for all of us. People like Sandusky are few and far between. But how easy is it for all of us to take the easy way out? How easy is it to see something not right in a friend’s life and just brush it off as “not my problem?”
We’re all guilty of it. We see friends going down a path that can’t have a good outcome and we sit by and let it happen. Sure, we may talk to other friends about it, but what do we do to stop it?
That’s what disturbs me the most about the Sandusky incident. I don’t call it a scandal; it’s more of a travesty. How easy is it to stand back and not get involved in an uncomfortable situation?
Penn State students’ reactions to Joe Paterno’s firing was another cringe-worthy incident. Rioting, flipping news vans and tearing down street lights? Really?
The man essentially covered up child molestation by his assistant coach. I’ve heard the arguments; he supposedly did what was required of him. But look beyond the letter of the law. Sure he told his boss, which was what is required by law. But he stopped there. Legally what he did was right but morally that is one of the most reprehensible things I have ever heard.
It was not all of Penn State who rioted for “JoePa.” There were many who decried these riots and tried to draw attention to the real issue at hand. The fact that the football administration covered up Sandusky’s crime is the real story here. Joe Paterno deserved to be fired. No one wanted to see him go down like that, but the man chose his path.
I’d hope that Springfield College students would never act like this. Of course, we don’t have a Joe Paterno among our coaching staff, but imagine if we did. If it was discovered that he was covering up a crime, would Springfield College students be rioting in the streets? I would honestly hope not. It disgusted me watching students worried more about their beloved football coach than about the lives of young boys.
This whole episode is horrible on so many levels. I hope Penn State is able to overcome this and I hope that all of us can learn a valuable lesson about standing up for what is right, even if it’s not easy.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org