NOTE: I normally blog about writing and how it relates to life. However, I was so disgusted by what happened at Penn State this week that I could not help but blog my feelings. After all, in many ways that is what writing is about. In writing, we take life and distill it through words, expressing human nature. But, sometimes, our nature as humans is more important than the art that reflects it. This is one of those times.
There are things more important than our passions. Sometimes, we need to stand back and realize that. There are things, values, more important than any writing or book. There are morals more important than any film or art. There are justices more important than any sport.
People tend to forget that. They get wrapped up in the things they’ve used to define themselves, at the cost of universal humanity. We are writers, readers, athletes, liberals conservatives, artists, scientists…and as such, we forget that we are primarily human.
This week, a bunch of people at Penn State were reminded of the responsibility that we share as humans. It is our duty to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. These people are the young, the old, the infirmed, the otherwise unable to self-protect.
Children, especially, are in our charge. Why? Because we, as adults, take so much authority over them. We command them as teachers, as coaches, as parents, as leaders. Our children are told from an early age that they must listen and obey adults. We send them to other adults, whom we entrust with their safety.
Violations of that trust must be met immediately, and with severity. Those who stand by and allow it are as guilty as those who committed the atrocities in the first place.
People may disagree with me, but in my experience, there is no rehabilitating a pedophile. You cannot tell them to stop and expect it to happen. You most certainly cannot look the other way.
Last night, a bunch of students rioted because a beloved football coach got fired. I am ashamed of them, supposedly educated adults who were unwilling to hold a man accountable for acts that happened under his watch, simply because he won football games.
Football is not important in the grand scheme. Compared to the safety of our children, nothing is important. My son had been born for about a half a second before I realized that I would die for him. My greatest daily wish is for a single smile, a hug, an “I love you, Daddy.” I would defend him with my life, without hesitation.
But, I know my duty is much more than just the protection of my child. If I witness the abuse of another child, I must take action. This is what the athletic and academic administration of Penn State forgot. Pedophilia is not an internal employment matter. It is a public matter of justice. You do not call your boss when a co-worker is molesting children. You call the police. This is your duty, not just because some of you fall under the role of mandatory reporter, but because you ALL fall under the role of human being.
If you haven’t read the grand jury presentment, I urge you to. I warn you, it is a very hard thing to read through, but it is important. It is important to understand what it represents. It represents the destruction of nine young people who grew up to be most likely damaged adults.
Sexual abuse changes children for their entire lives. For most, there is no moving on. There is no getting over it. The abuse will haunt them for all time.
Victims of sexual abuse are victims of power abuse. It isn’t about sex, it is about power and control. Imagine, having lost all power and control over your own life, to have it all ripped away.
Regaining that control is a hard thing. Some people never manage it.
That is the real crime of sexual abuse, the destruction of humanity, of the victims, of the offenders, and of the witnesses. Joe Paterno and Penn State’s administration lost their humanity when they chose not to call the police.
They took away his keys and told him not to bring kids to the locker room anymore, essentially “don’t do it here.” That disgusts me. Out of sight is not out of mind, not for this. There is no forgiveness.
Every person who knew anything about it should be fired. Any who can be prosecuted for failure to report need prosecuted, and all of those who were victimized need to come forward and make sure that the man who stole their innocence stays in prison for the rest of his life. It is a chance for them to regain some control, the control he took from them.
There are things more important than football. It’s a shame so many people forgot that this week. I pray that none of them forget it again. I pray for the survivors who will have to relive the abuse they experienced, and I feel sorry that they have to watch while so many support a man who failed to support children when they needed him the most.
Joe Paterno may have been a good football coach, but he failed as a man. That cannot be forgiven. No more than the victims can will themselves to forget.