I live in Pennsylvania, so that means that lately it’s been like walking on eggshells. On a normal day if I run into three people around here chances are two of them are somehow affiliated with Penn State. This past week it’s been strange. Quiet in some ways.
Of course every one is talking about the Penn State University Scandal. The process going from disbelief to shock to pain to fear … it’s going to take a while. The five stages of grief for these folks has only just begun.
A legend, a hero, a mentor and an idol has fallen. Actually, more than one. But of course the brand identity of most around here, of the school, and to those affiliated, even the state is no longer on his pedestal. Some say he was ripped off it, some say he threw himself off on his own. Regardless, the fall out will be horrific, and in my opinion, well deserved.
I have no affiliation with Penn State University. In fact, I don’t know what it’s like to be affiliated with an organization that has such zeal, spirit, and cult-like following. My alma mater barely knew I was there, barely cared, and I show about the same attention back. While there I was proud to be … no, I was a kid, it was a city, I wasn’t proud of what I was a part of. I have since become so of the school I attended, but I do not feel the level of affinity these folks feel. My alma mater is not my identity. Even on weekends when there are sporting events. (I also don’t live in the same state, or even country as my alma mater, so that might also have something to do with it.)
So I can only react as an “outsider” in some ways. I try to be gentle to those going through this process of acceptance of the horrors. But I find the topic so horrific that I myself cannot show sympathy for this. I know intellectually the process has to be followed; that something that was so much a part of their lives has crumbled and it’s going to take time. They need to defend their mentors and those that they proudly supported just a few days ago, and need to be able to support now. I see the pain and the conflict in them. But I cannot hide my disgust. I am sorry for that.
This scandal is all about football. Penn State University has an amazing reputation for academics, leadership and honor. Leadership and honor is pretty much in the crapper this week. But their academics still hold their standing. Perhaps the leadership should have sought the assistance from their communications faculty in helping to deal with this situation, but … that’s their issue. Perhaps they did, and that department chose to not be part of a cover-up machine. This is all about football. This is not about academics. Had this happened in any other department there it is more than likely it would have made the light of day early on, be dealt with harshly, publicly, and then been over with. But because this is football, at least a decade of brushing it aside took place, and as a result, every one who knew or had an inkling is responsible, morally, for every child and every family that was affected. They are responsible, morally and ethically for the crash and burn of their legend, the reputation of their institution, and the pain of grief as all those connected are feeling today. They are responsible now, because they weren’t then.
The laws will now take care of who knew what and when. Their consciences will likely torture them, if they have any soul left at all. It is embarassing, even for someone with no ties to the school, that community, or even an interest in football. It is an embarassment that they are considered human.
I don’t care about the “successes” their former head coach had, or how long he had been there. No wins or titles mean anything now. His credibility and honor are fully in question now as if he covered this up, what else did he cover up? What digressions of honor did he support to get those accomplishments? For over a decade he looked the other way, sacrificing children, knowing the risks and damages that were possible, and even likely taking place, in his very hallowed halls that represent him and he represents.
No measure of success or achievements matter if you fail at being human.
I have heard, and even myself made comparisons to the Occupy Wall Street movements, how this is the embodiement of what they stand for. But I apologize for that. That is not fair. That is not appropriate. Despite how closely the tie in is, to the point of it being scary, these are children that were involved here. It is not fair to what they have gone through to elevate them to the stature of a symbol of another public outcry. They should not share the limelight. They deserve their own outcry for justice. We cannot hold them up as symbols of what we fight for because we cannot begin to understand or comprehend THEIR grief. We have to support them, not use them.