Like many, I feel so sad about what’s transpired over the last few days in State College. And please know this: I’m not a Penn State fan. I don’t follow college football. I don’t have any personal connection to any of this. But I know people who do. And I know people who are taking all of this very hard. And maybe, most importantly, I’m a parent. And I understand the vulnerability of children and the obligation adults have to keep them safe.
I have nothing new to add to the discussion of the facts as we know them so far. And who am I to conjecture about the what ifs, could haves, should haves, would haves. Everyone understands that the situation is horrific, first and foremost for those once innocent young boys. What was done to them can never be undone. I’m also aware that anyone and everyone in this country is theoretically innocent until proven guilty. But the evidence against Sandusky is mounting and hard to deny.
So I’m not here to speak about the unspeakable, about what was done to those boys and how maybe or maybe not it was covered up or why or who knew what or what that all means when you think about what’s most important in life. Football? Or the sanctity of a child’s body and soul?
All of that stops me in my tracks and gives me pause to think. But what also troubles me is this:
Are we living under a false sense of security? If even those who are held up as the best and most virtuous among us can make questionable decisions or engage in inaction in the face of receiving incomprehensibly sordid information, well, then are we all deluding ourselves in believing that we would make the right decision under the same circumstances? That’s what is on my mind. Is it much harder than we can fathom to make the right decision at the right time? Are the people we make out to be larger than life really just fundamentally human and flawed underneath the lauded exterior, and as such, struggling with the same basic dichotomy of right and wrong that we all struggle with ? Do we expect too much of them? Are we unrealistic in our expectations? Do we have reason to believe that any of us would act differently?
I don’t know. I have no answers. And I’m certain there are people close to this situation second-guessing themselves and wishing they had made different choices. I hate to think that any misstep was malicious. All I do know for certain is that the real victims here are the children, who are no longer children, but rather young adults who have to listen to what was done to them being talked about in the news and then have to listen some more to the remorse expressed over careers being ended and reputations being tarnished because of what was done to them. What must those now grown children be thinking?
There are many victims here. None greater or more damaged than those boys, whose numbers will undoubtedly grow. But aren’t we all victims of a sort? Of a lesser kind? For believing that the greatest among us are anything more than human, capable of doing great things and making great mistakes all at the same time?
No. I take that back. We are not victims in the same sense as those boys. And to even suggest as much would be insensitive. The only real victims here are the victims. The rest of us are either perpetrators, complicit, bystanders who didn’t do enough, or the faithful or cynical alike who have been disillusioned by a false sense of security that there are those among us who always know what’s right and never make the wrong choice. I don’t know if we have the right to be disappointed unless we’ve been faced with the same set of circumstances and did indeed do something different.
I know what we’d like to think we’d do. But that’s something altogether different.