(Previously posted on my cleveland.com blog, The Last Cleveland)
Even the almighty Joe Paterno, the coach of Penn State for 46 seasons – the moral compass of college football – can be guilty of being human.
I don’t need to go over the details of what is going on at Penn State. They have been exhausted to the extent they can be over the past week or so, and if you don’t know what is going on, then look it up.
In any case, we know what we know – Jerry Sandusky will be rightly punished, and the entire athletic staff associated with the football team will be (and so far has) been ousted. It’s the right thing to do; the only thing to do.
Joe Paterno was fired amidst rampant speculation with regards to what we actually know about the case. That had to happen, regardless of his level of guilt by association.
What this case has really shown everyone watching what has transpired is that no one, not even the most righteous, is capable of being perfect. No one in this world is capable of making the exact, right, moral decision in their lives, at every instance.
I will intercede here very quickly and say that of course, Paterno’s indecision in a situation so serious, if it comes to pass that we find out he failed as miserably in his responsibilities as we fear he did, is a far more detrimental scenario than most of us have had to face in our lives, and there is no reprieve for Jerry Sandusky. This post has nothing to do with him. He is guilty, and should be sentenced to the most severe of punishments for his crimes.
That being said, what this whole situation has called to my mind the most is that, just like Joe Paterno, all of us are guilty of making the wrong moral decisions at one point in our lives. At one point, we have seen something happen that we knew was wrong, something we should have taken a stance against, someone we should have helped, someone we could have saved – and turned our backs to look the other way…and try to forget it ever happened.
Less than a week ago, my girlfriend showed me a video of a girl, who was handicapped, getting beaten by her father for using the internet. In the video, the girl is beaten severely merely for going on the computer (the video is ten minutes long); all the while, the girl’s mother is alongside her father, blaming her child and explaining to the father how the girl had done wrong. Since this video has been released, it is to my understanding that the wife and the girl have left the father.
This video enraged me so that I was unable to talk reasonably about the subject for several hours afterward. It called to my mind my own mother and her sisters, how they were beaten by my grandfather, and how my grandmother stood by and allowed this to continue.
I know things like this and what happened in happen constantly in this world, and sometimes the only solution to keep it from overwhelming us is to turn our backs on it and become numb to it. I understand this response. The problem that all of us have, however fairly or unfairly we project it on Joe Paterno, is that when one of us makes a poor decision morally, we all claim we could have done what is right.
The sad truth of all of this is that when we have faced things in our lives where we have the chance to do what is right, we don’t always do what is right.
We fail in our duty to our fellow man to help them, to do what we can for them, and though most of us have not failed at the level Joe Paterno has, my point with this post is for anyone who actually reads this to take a moment to think. Think about a time when we could have done more, when we SHOULD have done more…and never forget, from this point on –
– we should always do more.