It seems that every blogger, news site and media outlet has given their commentary on the Penn State child abuse scandal. I think it has hit many hard, and people need a way to process through their thoughts and feelings.
So here's my two cents. Well, before I give my two cents, let me get a few things straight:
Disclaimer 1: I am not a Penn State University alum. I am not part of that community. I am from Pennsylvania, so PSU is inevitably part of my environment. While I appreciate the "WE ARE PENN STATE" mantra, I cannot completely understand it, because I didn't go there (I believe Penn Staters would agree).
Disclaimer 2: I am not a football fan. In that, I completely don't understand it. I don't watch it. I don't care about it. And what does or does not happen during a football season (college league or NFL or whatever) in no way affects my immediate life.
Disclaimer 3: In my former pre-kids life, I was a social worker. I still am a social worker in spirit, because, really, being a social worker is a mindset, not just a profession. Not only was I a social worker, but I was, specifically, a caseworker for my county's child protective services (aka, "Children Youth and Families") (aka, "that department whose sole purpose is to protect kids and look out for their welfare") (aka, "that department that deals with child abuse and neglect, among other things") (aka, "that department that is sometime villainized for being the service that 'yanks kids out of their homes.'")
Now, onto my two cents.
I'm not here to judge whether it was right or wrong to fire Joe Paterno with only a few games left in his season. I know that seems to be the big media blitz; he is one of the biggest celebrities at PSU, so of course it makes the most news. I don't know if it's fair that he seems to be the fall guy, especially when so many other people were involved. I'm not sure why Mike McQueary is being protected as a "whistle blower" for (eventually) going to authorities, while Joe Paterno got fired despite going to the authorities as well.
There is a lot to feel conflicted about.
There is a lot to also be outraged by. I know I'm not a PSU grad, and therefore "can't get it," as many alumni have asserted to non-alumni over the past few days. I'm not a football fan, so I know I can't "get" how firing JoePa can ruin a season and legacy. Nor do I care. I am disgusted that Penn Staters rioted when Joe Paterno was fired, to show their support and love for him. One even stating that it's wrong for him to get fired "over something like this." The PSU scandal has been a comment storm over Facebook, and I've had a chance to read through the thoughts and feelings of alumni and non-alumni alike. And there were plenty of people stating that Joe Paterno should have been given the opportunity to at least finish out the season.
This gives me pause.
Because, once again: I don't know how much he knew. I don't know how much anyone knew. But they knew. They knew something. And I do applaud Joe Paterno for telling someone. For McQueary for telling someone. Being the one to bring out a story like this can be difficult. And many people claim as much: that Joe Paterno did his duty. He told authorities. You are right. He did. He told his boss, and I'm sure trusted they would do something about it.
But they didn't.
And he all but washed his hands of it.
How do I know he washed his hands of it? He didn't pursue it any further. McQueary didn't pursue it any further. Authorities didn't pursue it any further. Investigations fizzled, and Sandusky all but got a slap on the wrist. Then Paterno is fired, and people get all in a tizzy about it. So I have to ask:
What if it were your kid?
What if it were your kid whose innocence was stolen, whose life would never be the same again?
I doubt you'd care that some football coach was fired with a few remaining football games left in his season. I doubt you'd care if he "did his duty" by telling authorities. You'd want him canned. Let's be honest: if you are a parent, you'd want worse. You'd want every person who knew an inkling of your child's trauma to be held accountable. To be hurt, like your child was hurt.
Because even if the men who knew about this abuse "did their duty" by telling their higher ups, they left it at that. They washed their hands of it. They didn't follow up. They didn't pursue. They didn't stop until justice was served. They didn't fight.
We need to fight for our kids. Because they cannot fight for themselves. They are innocent and fragile. And they need us to protect them. Whether they are our biological children or not.
THAT is our duty.
Our response should not be "I can't believe Joe Paterno got fired!"
It should be, "I can't believe these children were abused."
So do I care that a school's honor is at stake? That a legendary coach has been fired? That a president has been canned? Do I care who knew what and did this or that with the information?
I care about those young souls who endured a nightmare that no child should endure. The victims whose trust was broken, innocence stolen and mind completely screwed up. The children whose lives will never be the same.
The kids are really who matters in this situation.
Let's not lose sight of that.