No Rest for the Wicked: Why Joe Paterno Does Not Get A Pass
January 22, 2012 in Crime and Punishment
If you've read the grand jury report surrounding the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse crimes, you'll agree that there are plenty of despicable people at Penn State who should not only be shrouded in public humiliation, but should also do some hard jail time.
- Sandusky, obviously, his actions so heinous and unforgivable that whatever punishment he gets will never be enough, but I hope we try to outdo ourselves anyway.
- Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who literally laid eyes on Sandusky while he was in the middle of raping a child in the locker room and walked away, having done nothing.
- McQueary's father, who heard from his son immediately following the locker room incident and decided that the best course of action was to not go to the authorities, but to instead report their discovery to Coach Paterno the next day.
- There is Tim Curley, Penn State Athletic Director, who waited a week and a half after being notified by Paterno to meet with McQueary, along with Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Shultz, to hear McQueary's findings. The only actions that stemmed from this was for Sandusky's keys to be removed and for the information to be passed along to The Second Mile, a charity founded by Sandusky and used by him to prey on young, troubled boys.
Many in the media and public have openly vilified the people in this case, so much so that Mike McQueary issued a statement defending his actions. In almost all cases, people agree that everyone involved should be held accountable—except for Joe Paterno.
In all the situations surrounding Paterno, from his firing from Penn State to his passing earlier today from complications due to lung cancer, most of the comments I hear and statuses that are posted on Facebook and Twitter all seem to resonate with remorse, compassion, and even empathy for the man. Whenever a statement is written denouncing his actions as not enough, several more will reply with variations that all focus on one thing: the success of his career.
"Well I hope Penn St board of trustee are happy now that they didnt [sic] let Joe Paterno finish his final season after all he has done for that school!!! RIP Joe"
"…The man was 85! The last few months shouldn't forever stain his career."
"Jo Pas testimony was that he reported to the two higher ups, as did their testimony confirm this. You can't hold him responsible…"
I call bullshit. His track record with Penn State was indeed impressive, having a winning record that included 409 victories in his time there. However, I as a human being have a hard time reconciling a person's career, money they've donated, or lessons they've taught with the heavily-weighted and final outcome of a terrible decision that forever altered the course of many young lives. What counts more, the men he helped become pro athletes, or the boys that he allowed to be irreparably damaged while he stood by?
Joe Paterno did not do enough, and no amount of rationalization or technicalities is going to change that. The McQuearies, Curley, Shultz, and Paterno, they all share the fact that they did not go to the authorities to have them investigate Sandusky, they did not make any efforts to find out the identity of the child, and they all passed the yoke of responsibility on to others. Except for McQueary's failure to physically step in and stop it, they are all no different. Ivan Maisel of ESPN stated that this scandal "…should zero out neither Paterno's six decades of achievement at Penn State nor his lifetime of leadership and beneficence at the university." Yes, Ivan, that is exactly what should happen. We don't get to rest on our laurels when it comes to doing the right thing, and Joe Paterno should not get a pass for a bad decision that assisted in allowing the continued sexual assault and unspeakable depravity done to children for an additional nine years.