with the desire to get to the bottom of the Joe Paterno/Penn State dilemma had
better be ready to accept some unsavory aspects of human nature.A number of astute sports commentators have
said we have to stop turning college coaches into icons and college teams into
the soul/sole representatives of their universities.I agree with that, but it's not going to
after two ESPN sports pundits agreed on that very issue I watched their network
crown "Coach K" as Godfather of Duke University. They actually showed
images of students bowing down to him. Part of Coach K's deification included
his own deification of his mentor, Bobby Knight; you know, the winner of more
major college basketball games than any other coach (before Coach K) and the
screamer-at of more young men and thrower of more folding chairs and "fuck
you"-er of more naysayers than any college coach this side of Woody Hayes.
said, it’s not going to happen.Good that it has nothing to do with the
astonishing truths of the mathematics of sexual abuse in this country.
scene in the movie, "Get Low," where Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) tells
an audience of funeral attendees (at Felix's own funeral, purposely held while
he's still alive) the shameful thing he did as a young man that caused him to
imprison himself in a cabin outside a small Kentucky town for forty years.He says, "Y’all probably think you know what you'd do and what you
wouldn't, and I wish you luck with that; I really do."
I wish us
all luck with that.
State ordeal isn't about Joe Paterno or about the reverence we hold toward
college sports or college coaches and athletes.But if an icon hadn't been in some way involved or it had happened away
from a famed institution there's a good chance none of us would have heard
more than twenty years as a therapist with abused kids and the people who
abused them, trying to patch together strategies to diminish the consequences
of their traumas and help create an atmosphere wherein kids wouldn't lose their
families and vice-versa.Many of those
cases included children who had been offended against sexually, and the
perpetrators of those acts.What I think
from all that work is that if the general population had any idea the sheer
numbers of our fellow humans who have gone through some form of that awfulness,
we'd spend a lot less energy being horrified and a lot more energy addressing
ways to solve the problem.
afraid to talk about sex will never understand sexual abuse. It will just be
horrified.And if the general population
had any idea the number of people who have turned their backs in the face of
suspicion or in the face of facts, there would be far less righteousness about
Joe Paterno, and far more activism with the intent of caring for those too small
or weak to care for themselves.Don't
take that to mean I think Paterno shouldn't have been dumped.I have no
problem with that.No matter the
considerations, we can never allow ourselves complacency.Sexual activity out of natural sequence and
particularly through force or intimidation is a profoundly difficult life changing experience.DUH!
is there are plenty of reasons to think we go way over the top with sports and
plenty of reasons to bring us to the conclusion that turning a person into a
hero because the universe has given him or her some talent that coincides with
an arbitrary game we think is cool, is just dumb; and not a good way to
prioritize where we apply our funds and our energies.
days to come we're going to hear more unsavory things about who knew what and
when they knew it and whose fault it is that these boys were savaged.People will fall on either side of the
Paterno equation and mostly on one side of the McQueary equation and this will
die and not one goddam politician will push to fund the programs we need to fund to get ahead of this epidemic
that has been playing out before our eyes for as many generations as have
folks familiar with Penn State will tell you damn little goes on there of which
Joe Paterno isn’t aware; he likely knew or
suspected more than we'll ever know and he chose to act how he acted for
whatever reasons.McQueary saw it; knew what he knew and ditto. But as Felix Bush says, "Y’all probably think you know what you'd do and what you
wouldn't and I wish you luck with that, I really do."
are at that point.What will we do or
not do?I worked in the trenches of child
abuse for two decades, have served almost thirty years as chair of the original
child protection team in my town, and I’m telling you: we are McQueary
looking into that goddam shower.We can
panic and run and ask a bunch of political and institutional fat cats how to
handle it without shocking our sensibilities or we can storm in, knock Sandusky
on his ass and walk that little boy to safety.
decide to hold the line on taxing those who can afford it and cut spending for
those among us who really need it. It’s easy to distance ourselves.Like the officials at Penn State, we don’t know their names.We can say it just costs too much in “this
economy.”Or we can pony up.
is, I’ve said it and now you know
it.You can decide I’m full of shit and go get Rush Limbaugh to articulate how
Chris Crutcher said some nonsense like the Tea Party is solely responsible for
a little boy’s rape if you so choose, but I’m backed by folks a whole lot smarter than I am - and a whole lot smarter than Rush - so bring
it.Folks, once you know it, you can’t not know it.Just because you don’t know their names doesn’t
mean they’re not silently terrified just like the kids in Penn State shower.
A recent article in USA Today says sexual abuse victims are
finding the courage to stand up in the aftermath of the Penn State story.Are we sure we want a child molester to initiate empowerment for those thousands of once
scared, silent kids?I mean, Hooray! Any port.But wouldn’t we be a far more graceful culture if we got on the front
end of this, economically, politically and educationally?It isn’t kids who keep this stuff secret,