The results of Freeh’s investigation on the “Penn State Scandal” have troubled me to the point where I have a hard time figuring out what to feel or think. And it’s not just the findings listed in the report, but the way everyone is reacting to the news. I really think most people are conflicted inside like me, between outrage, skepticism, loyalty, disgust, and handfuls of other emotions. Over the past several months, consistent with how I try to approach many situations, I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. But being optimistic, only prolongs the pain when the worst of the worst is in fact the reality.
It sickens me that men, trusted to make the best decisions, failed those kids and failed miserably. The leaders of a football program and school that preached the importance and need of integrity and the moral pursuit of success in athletics and academics, didn’t practice their own lessons. And now, we are faced with how to react as we go forward.
In less than two months, assuming nothing unexpected occurs, I’ll be marching into Beaver Stadium, the iconic reunion place for much of the Penn State family, only this time, it’s going to feel different. It’s not going to have the perfect, innocent, and joyful feeling it’s had these past three years. It’s a new beginning, a sad beginning. And it will never be the same. Having these acts brought to the light illuminates a number of issues beyond the abuse that occured; issues that can’t be fixed by any coach, president, court, or law enforcement.
It only takes one man’s actions and transgressions to bring out the worst in humanity. Within the past year we have seen it here in State College. There aren’t words to describe how sick Sandusky’s actions and crimes are. But think about our reaction to these terrible deeds…
Four days after the initial release of Sandusky’s charges, Joe Paterno’s is firing led to an unnecessary and ill-advised riot in downtown State College. Students flipped a news van, shouted chants like “F&%# the media!” and start fires on the lawn of Old Main all in protest of a decision we as students had little to no knowledge of the reasons for. Why was destruction needed? Why did students cuss out media members who were simply doing their job and played no role in the firing decision or sexual abuse in the first place? It’s because we as students also failed in upholding the standards. We did not possess the integrity we prided ourselves in as Penn Staters.
Millions across the country, then jumped to conclusions on individuals’ involvements, motivations, and innocence or lack there of. It became a witch-hunt, people throwing others under the bus. This was all in an attempt to either make themselves look better in comparison to those who were accused of making bad decisions or just for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon. Our whole campus was guilty by association because of the transgressions of a few who shared ties to the same institution. We as a society run for our pitchforks and torches at the sound of an accusation.
No one was thinking for themselves, and out of the “care for these victims” that so many pointed to to justify their reactions, they condemned others and acted heinously as well. Reading the comments on ESPN.com articles (a terrible idea I might add), I would constantly find messages with a combination of hope and prayers for those victimized and distasteful jokes about or threats to those involved. How does this make any sense? How can those two things come from the same heart and mind?
These drastically mixed feelings led so many to judging the eternal destination of these individuals. A visible example of this came from ndulge, a dessert shop downtown. They posted these signs earlier this year and many students celebrated their move to present these in their windows.
We are in no place to judge the eternal destination of others. It resides completely in the personal relationship with God, and although actions can point to the health of this relationship, ultimately He is the final judge. In a decision that isn’t based on a ratio of good vs. bad within us, but our faith in Christ, who are we to make such bold statements.
And what about the large number claiming they would have done something different? If they were in fact correct in their statements, wouldn’t we be living around an overwhelming number of moral and ethical people? I look at myself, and realize I’m not perfect. I look around in this college environment and I see so much that is just plain wrong with it. I’m starting to feel like these deficiencies in humanity are more prevalent than we think, and we overstate our goodness and understate our failings and badness.
I want to think if I were to ask any of these men, they would say with hindsight that they would have done things differently. So everyone has 20/20 hindsight. Who are we to say that in someone else’s shoes we would have done something different? We can only make sure to do our best in the future when presented with a tough challenge like this.
The truth is this world is broken. People do terrible things, and in reaction to these terrible things people do even more terrible things. I’ve wanted this whole case to wrap up, get closure, be learned from, and go in the past. But sadly, it won’t.
There will be questions unanswered, facts that will remain in the dark, and despite this coming to the light, child sexual abuse along with many other horrendous acts will continue. Crimes will go unpunished, innocent individuals will have the quality of their lives compromised and diminished, and fingers will continue to be pointed in the aftermath, both at those justly and falsely accused.
So, sorry that you had to deal with my rambling. I just wanted to share some of my observations. I’ve definitely played a role in some if not all of these issues in some way or another. And despite my thoughts and feelings, I still don’t know what to think of all of this. I’m constantly conflicted with my lack of knowledge on everyone’s motivations, thoughts, and hearts. I simply don’t know all the facts, and I am disturbed by everything that has to our best knowledge occurred.
I try to hold on to this little verse through all of this.
“Let the man without sin cast the first stone.” – John 8:7 –
We need to think before we act in the wake of another’s mistake. Otherwise the cut never heals, it only gets deeper, and the bleeding gets worse.