Penn State child sex abuse roils campus

Question of Joe Paterno involvement divides students

I can sympathize with the outrage of the students who ran to protect their icon, their god—it made sense to me, even if it seemed misguided. What did anyone expect? This myth of Jo Pa wasn't built in a day, and people were wholly invested in it in a huge way. I saw it with my own eyes. Shit! I even started to get swept up in it, even while I was aware of the construction in all my haughty cynicism. And, honestly, I think part of the outrage of Penn Staters comes from that awareness, too. As people suggest that Paterno should behave like the god we claim he is, students were saying: He is not a god, he is a man, and he failed like one. But a real conversation about what happened and what should happen now was wholly shut down.

I blame the press for misguiding the direction of this conversation—for making this about the icon of Joe Paterno rather than the systematic abuse of young boys and the failings of a system to handle the case appropriately. Instead, in a need for sensation, the press and those on social media outlets rallied against our icon because that was the sexiest headline. And, of course, the student body reacted with violent defensiveness. Real communication, real consideration for how Joe Paterno failed was never allowed to happen. These kids—this community—was never allowed to consider what this all really meant because everyone had to sex up this story with a celebrity and his myth, because what fun would it be to destroy that narrative so thoroughly for the sake of greedy viewers. It made for good television.

Well, I hope that everyone has fully enjoyed watching this spectacle from the outside—that your morbid curiosity and insatiable desire for public scandal has been thoroughly fed. I'm sure that it will disappear from your consciousness as soon as another sexy headline comes along to feed your addictions. But it won't disappear for us here at Penn State. The identity of this university has been utterly ruined and for all the wrong reasons. The real issues have been thoroughly buried. And now, we don't have healthy discourse on our hands, we have anger and frustration and camps of "Gotta Go Joe!" and "Stay Joe!" Now, we have an image problem that has occluded the real issue: that a man allegedly raped little boys and that an administration made aware of this fact failed to respond appropriately, making it possible for him to continue. Now we have some perverse narrative about a fallen god and a university that allowed little boys to be raped because our football team was more important.

I beg of all of you, help get the conversation back on track. Subdue the violence and vitriol. Encourage good conversation and help each other avoid generalizations. Find the facts and use them. Use this as a chance to make a better world, a world where we can talk openly and critically and peacefully. Anything but this.

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