After a week full of drama, someone at Penn State finally had the good sense to do the right thing. Joe Paterno–his legacy tarnished and being further tarnished–has been fired. There are so many stories on this front that no link is necessary. If you have a TV or the Internet, you know by now.
In fact, you also know that the Penn State campus was the scene of a riot/protest. Indeed, the students protested because Paterno will not be allowed to earn a salary sitting upstairs watching the game this Saturday. Instead, like them, he must watch as a fan rather than a coach. The horror.
As if Joe Paterno is a victim in this mess.
In fact, let’s just make a list here of the potential victims of this drama:
A. Those kids sexually abused by Sandusky after 2002.
Most decent people would consider these folks the victims here. Because of the lack of a criminal investigation, Sandusky was never investigated regarding the 2002 incident. That is clear. This meant that there was no opportunity for Sandusky to go to jail. And without Sandusky in jail, other children were abused. Regardless of the act–several more children were sexually abused. They have had their lives permanently harmed. What was done to them is life-shattering to an adult. Slide that back to preadolescence and try to imagine how life shattering that would be. Really… do we need to go on? If you cannot fathom the victimization here, you are non-human. 5 or more people at Penn State had the opportunity to intervene and did not do so–leading to these victims.
B. Joe Paterno.
According to Paterno’s supporters, he is somehow the victim of a witch hunt or a scapegoat. For all those years, Paterno did so many good things. How could he be fired when the guy who witnessed the rape has not been fired yet? Paterno said he would resign at the end of the season (January) and now he has to stop coaching in November. No more game days. He complied with the letter of the law. It’s not his fault that others neglected to report the rape. Paterno had other things to do.
Compare (A) and (B).
Which one merits a protest? Look, a lot of us have been to college. Protesting is part of the growth process. You learn that authority can be challenged.
A protest was inevitable. But can any reasonable person conclude that (B) was worth protesting for, especially if the students already determined that (A) was not worth protesting for? If the Penn State students had any rational thought, they would have been protesting against Paterno. Even legends have moral duties. Frankly, legends may have greater moral duties sometimes. Comes with the territory. But they at least have the same moral duties as the rest of us. Nobody is every too busy or important to report child abuse. That’s a protest message the world could support.
And if any student were to claim “woe is me,” they can be rightfully looked at with disgust. A total lack of perspective. One that cannot even be dismissed by mere youth or unbridled exuberance. So what if this Saturday’s game is coached by Tom Bradley, rather than Joe Paterno. Is that your tragedy? So what if you didn’t get to give Joe Paterno a standing ovation on Saturday? You’ll get over it. All of this certainly pales in comparison to being raped in Joe Paterno’s locker room.
The right to protest is part of our guarantee of free speech. But so is our right to speak out against it.