"And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid."
- Sufjan Stevens
I have thought about the Penn State situation a great deal over the past few days and when Paterno was fired last night, I had somewhat of an epiphany that made me want to write something on this old blog that has long since been neglected.
I think my mind immediately went to how I would feel if I were a parent of one of the victims. Maybe this is because my boys were born so recently. Regardless of the reason, I imagined that if I had a child that was abused and came to find out that the coach of the school that employed the abuser knew about the abuse and did not report it to the authorities, I would find it difficult to understand not only why he wasn't fired immediately (anything more than a day seems too long to me) and why there is no legal recourse in seeking further punishment but also how he could find it morally acceptable to let this kind of crime not be reported to the police. His son being a lawyer seems to explain how he was able to escape indictment but, it does not explain how any living breathing human being could allow a monster like that to go unpunished or shield him from prosecution. I shouldn't have to be the one to break it to JoePa that demoting someone for raping children is not punishment. It borders on implicit abetment. All this is to say that, his statement that he would retire at the end of the season and his subsequent disappointment in the Board of Trustees decision to relieve him of his duties smacks of a substantial level of either delusion, senility, or a bit of both.
Once I stepped out of the shoes of the abused child's parent, I stepped in to Paterno's. It was harder to do and I am still not sure I can fully grasp what is or might be going on in his mind. I wondered what I would do. I would like to say that I would have done the right thing. I think I would. As quickly as I asked myself that question, however, I started asking myself harder questions. What if it wasn't rape? What if it was a student athlete of mine that had cheated on a test? Would I kick him off the team? What if he was from a broken home and his scholarship was his hope of breaking his family's cycle of suffering in poverty and he was afraid that he would not graduate if he did not cheat? What is this was his only offense? What if it wasn't his only offense? I knew that I was not trying to make an argument for justifying how Paterno acted but, something was nagging at me about why I had some hesitation to vilify him. It is easy to do because 1) I am on the outside looking in and 2) I have never been in his situation. For whatever reason, my mind jumped from one scenario to another until I became dizzy and forgot what had started the whole line of thinking.
Once I re-gathered my thoughts, something hit me. What makes me any better than Paterno? For that matter, what makes me any better than Sandusky? Sure I have never abused a child. Does that mean I can judge someone who has? As I was taking a shower this morning, the lyrics to the Sufjan Stevens song "John Wayne Gacy" came to mind. I remember the first time I heard that song, it haunted me. It rocked me to my soul because I felt like Sufjan was touching on something very profound. He took a man who had done unspeakable things and related to him. He gave such a vulnerable look into (what I interpreted as) the darkest corners of all of our hearts. I could have completely missed the point of the song but, that is what I took away from it. We are all broken. Some of us seem to be more broken than others but, who gets to decide that? It doesn't seem fair that any of the broken people should have that right.
Finally, my mind found rest. Instead of trying to put myself in Paterno's or the abused parent's shoes. I put myself in Sandusky's shoes and immediately fell to my knees at God's feet and begged for mercy. I considered naming this post "I am Jerry Sandusky" in light of the song lyrics but, I would like to think that (by the grace of God) I am not capable of hurting a child. Then I realized that God sent his son to die for Jerry...and for Joe...and for me. I hope I never have to go through what these parent's went through and are going through now. I hope before they ever find justice, they find peace and forgiveness through the blood of Christ...and I hope Joe and Jerry find it, too.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." - Romans 3:23
"He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." - John 8:7
I pray that God would give me humility and forgiveness every day.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
I am Joe Paterno
"And in my best behavior