Thursday, November 10, 2011

Taking One for the Gipper

There's a chilling scene in the 2008 film Doubt in which Meryl Streep's terrifying Sister Alonysius, who may or may not have evidence of the parish priest's pedastery, confronts the mother of the boy in question. Surprisingly the woman, played with a world-weary resignation by the amazing actress Viola Davis, responds that at least a white person of influence is paying attention to her child -- and maybe that will somehow lead to a way out of the ghetto.

Somehow I think there's a similar attitude at play in the snowballing Penn State "abuse" scandal. ("Abuse" itself is a carefully measured word in the context of so horrific a revelation -- it's really an ongoing culture of child rape that was sustained for decades.) Obviously sexual predators like Jerry Sandusky select their victims for their extreme vulnerability -- in his case, he actually created a "charity" that would supply him with a pool of likely victims for years, and what could be more calculating than that? And while head coach Joe Paterno could have put a stop to Sandusky's preying decades ago, he was more concerned about preserving Penn State's football standing than the dignity and sanity of the dozens of boys whose rapes he could have prevented.

Though the boys concerned very likely lacked traditional families or parental guidance, there are so many involved that some of them must have had somewhat intact families with older siblings, grandparents, or at least relationships with teachers and clergy. How many of those adults knew what was happening, and chose not to jeopardize the sacrosanct culture of college football?

Paterno, who is as culpable here as the rapist himself, has been forced out after six decades of who knows how much damage he's inflicted through his incompetence, and that's a very good thing. But a raped ten-year-old is a pretty hard thing to miss. Who else kept quiet for the preservation of a meaningless ball game?

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