Penn State: On Power and Misguided Morality

After actually reading the Freeh report, Steve decided to discuss his opinion on the reaction from the general public to the report.

Paterno, Spanier, and Curley sharing a pleasant moment.

Hey, you. Yeah, you–the one who keeps parroting the rhetoric that Penn State should get the death penalty, throwing around words like “cowards,” for the Penn State brass, and the ever-popular “abandoning the children” variants. You’re an intellectual infant. You might think I’m writing this to somehow defend the indefensible actions of the Penn State leadership, even after the release of what was discovered in the Freeh investigation. No. What Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Mike McQueary collectively did was patently wrong. I’m not about to defend that. But don’t tell me what you’d have done in their position, don’t tell me how they’re cowards, or whatever loaded words you choose to use to make you feel better about yourself.

People in power abuse it, because they think they deserve it. If you suggest that you would have made better decisions, I’m led to believe you think you deserve some modicum of power more so than the people who had it. You suggesting you deserve this power, or would know what to do with it, leads me to believe that you’d have done exactly the same thing they all did. You’d have covered your ass. You’d have turned the same blind eye. You would have abandoned the children too.  You’re no better than any of the people implicated by the Freeh report, simply by suggesting you would be. Get over yourselves.

I hate to break it to you, but there’s a reason that people in power think they deserve it. People in power are generally ambitious, and rarely ever have significant positions of power thrust upon them. They seek them out. They’re actually willing to do “whatever it takes” to get the positions they desire. That’s what bothers me so much about people who “say” they’ll do whatever it takes to get somewhere in life. They mean it, up until they realize the full scope of what “whatever” really means. Positions of power will often require people to do things they aren’t proud of to preserve what they believe is “the greater good.”

You’re kidding yourself if you think the CEOs, athletic directors, university presidents, and politicians aren’t inherently self-interested. It’s just the way they’re wired. I’ve never heard of anybody who genuinely sought out a position of power because they wanted to spread their humility. Try me. Even Gandhi was primarily self-interested. Anybody who tries to get the world to live by a set of their ideals; an organization to operate by them, etc–is full of themselves, and I’m not suggesting that these are bad people. I am, however, saying they have their flaws. Just like you do, just like I do. If you tell me you think you’d have acted differently than these administrators, but also tell me you’d never be interested in holding their position–you’re an idiot.

Kanye said it best: “No one man should have all that power.” He was right, and Joe Paterno showed exactly why. He built a football program that succeeded at winning and graduating its players, and they did it for a really, really long time, better than anybody. This success pushed Joe Paterno to an iconic level, and he was granted immunity from pretty much anything. Of course he screwed up. We’ve read this book a million times, we’re just changing the characters. Any human would screw up. It’s why Louis XVI got beheaded, it’s why CEOs have to explain billion dollar losses–this type of people think they can do anything, because we let them believe they can. Humanity doesn’t absolve you from your crimes, but it can at least explain what some people will inevitably say is “inexplicable.” Joe Pa had more power and responsibility than any one human should ever have.  That is the crux of why it’s wrong for people to suggest they’d have done anything differently than Joe Pa did. You literally can’t fathom having that much power, and the effect it would have on you psychologically, and even physically. It’s very easy to sit back and crucify these people, when the most power you’ve held in your life is the fluorescent bulb you changed in the kitchen the other day.

Yet, here we are, with people calling for the “Death Penalty” for Penn State. Literally nobody associated with this program anymore had anything to do with what happened. The NCAA doesn’t need to impose the death penalty (you know, since the people involved are actually going to go to prison for this; if Curley and Schultz aren’t at least sent to prison for perjury, it’ll be a shocking upset.)  Yes, Penn State should probably be banned from playing in some bowl games for a few years, as is standard operating procedure for penalties being imposed against teams who no longer employ the services of the people responsible for their transgressions. But why should they press the big red button and close up shop on Penn State for the season, and set the program back decades? They hired the former head of the FBI (!!!) to lead an internal, private investigation–and released the results, none of which they were required to do. Why would any reasonable person want to drop the guillotine on this school after it’s shown its primary interest is completely sterilizing itself?

There’s a reason people come out and say what they would have done in a given situation. It’s probably got something to do with low self-esteem, low IQ, or both. What lower hanging fruit is there to pick than this? You’re the most pissed off about child abuse? Please stop. The biggest problem with reaction to cases like this is the throngs of people that become the morality police, yelling for the world to hear about how DISGUSTED they are, what an ATROCITY this is. It’s an angry mob mentality; one person is angry, the next is furious. It serves nobody any good. Anger and disgust at something like this go without saying. You’re supposed to find this appalling. It’s a child sex abuse case that was covered up. Changing up the way you say it doesn’t make it any worse, and it doesn’t make you care any more than the next person. It just shows that you’re full of it. Today, at any given moment on Twitter, or reading the myriad pieces written about the situation, I saw a lot of people who really need to evaluate themselves.

If you genuinely cared about this issue, you’d be rooting for change, not vengeance. What good will come from Penn State getting its lunch handed to it by the NCAA? You think they’re going to encourage future child molesters at schools across the country? I’m pretty sure the absolute chaos that PSU has been through since November is enough to make any administrator come forward if they are witness to something of this nature. If it isn’t, then nothing is, I assure you. It’s certainly not going to stop schools from cheating. So, what exactly are you going to accomplish by doing it? Nothing, but blind vengeance. I’m sure there are barbarians out there that would love nothing more than the public execution of the football program, for the sake of novelty disguised as morality.People want a reason to root for the death penalty, even if it’s just a football team being executed.

Don’t root for vengeance today. If you root for anything, root for Penn State to have proved a point, and to continue to prove a point. Root for Penn State to become an institution that shows its dedication to stopping child abuse at all levels, in all places. I genuinely believe it will be a paramount mission of this institution going forward to become a leader in creating and generating awareness in this area. Don’t root for these people to be torn down, root for them to serve as a cautionary tale to all others in power, to remind them of their true mortality; to show that nobody is above scrutiny. If all you root for is blind vengeance, then there will be nothing positive gained from this entire saga. Call me an idealist if you want, but even in situations as dark as this, I think there are silver linings to take away for the future. If all you want is vengeance, then there really isn’t much hope for you as a human.

Steve Sabato is a contributing writer for The Waiver Wire, and he’s not always this pissy. Also, this doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the other writers at The Waiver Wire.