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By January 23, 2012 Read More →

Joe Paterno and ignorance of evil

Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, has died.

I can’t help but wonder if the travesty of the last few months, with his former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, being charged with sexually molesting 10 young boys over 15 years, killed him.

I’m not an alumna of Penn State. (I am, however, an alumna of Syracuse University, with its own scandal of an assistant basketball coach allegedly molesting boys.) Still, I hate to see the storied career of Joe Paterno forever blackened by the malevolent behavior of one man, if that proves to be the case.

Some people argue that Paterno had to know what was going on. They argue that Paterno was so concerned about his legacy, the reputation of his football program and Penn State University, that he was willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior of Jerry Sandusky.

I’m not so sure.

Since the scandal broke in November, Joe Paterno has given only one interview, to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post. The story was published on January 14, 2012. It characterizes Joe Paterno as unable to comprehend what Sandusky may have done, because it was simply too foreign to the way Paterno himself lived his life. Jenkins writes:

He reiterated that McQueary was unclear with him about the nature of what he saw — and added that even if McQueary had been more graphic, he’s not sure he would have comprehended it.

“You know, he didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

Is it possible to be that unaware of the existence of evil? Yes, it is, and we all know it.

While I was uninitiated, meaning, before my direct, personal encounter with a social predator, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would cross paths with evil. I didn’t know that someone who appeared to be so loving and caring could have a hidden agenda. I lived a life of integrity, and I believed that the people who were part of my life were like me.

But, some may argue, sex abuse of children has been in the news for years—look at the stories about the Catholic Church. Well, my cousin was abused by priests. He received financial compensation many years ago—it was probably one of the first cases to be settled. I heard people in my family talking about it. Still, I did not comprehend what he must have experienced.

I didn’t understand the human capacity for manipulation and evil until it happened to me.

So, yes, I can believe that Joe Paterno was clueless. He grew up in a different era, when although the sexual abuse of children probably occurred, it certainly wasn’t talked about. He was inspired by his father. He believed in education. He believed in turning troubled athletes around. His whole life was about winning with integrity.

So for Paterno to realize, at this late stage of his life, that he may have been hoodwinked by someone so close to him must have been a terrible shock. It probably didn’t cause his lung cancer. But it may have sapped Paterno’s strength to fight it.

Read Joe Paterno’s last interview, on WashingtonPost.com.

 



212 Comments on "Joe Paterno and ignorance of evil"

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  1. silvermoon says:

    Joe Paterno, as a single individual, did more for Penn State than the Board of Trustees collectively. I worked to prevent child sexual abuse for more than 30 years, have given talks in 32 American states and several countries, and have had more than $3 million in grant funding to conduct research on child sexual abuse. One might expect that I would view the decision of the Board of Trustees in terminating Joe Paterno’s employment. However, I was, and remain, appalled by the impulsive action of the Trustees in firing Joe Paterno based on allegations of another individual’s wrongdoing. Allegations are not findings of fact, they remain only accusations until an impartial hearing of the facts in a court of law results in, or fails to demonstrate, a finding of guilt. It is essential to note several things that are facts: (1) Joe Paterno did not harm a child (and, in fact, he has contributed to many young men becoming responsible adults and fathers), (2) Joe Paterno did what is required in the State of Pennsylvania when an educator has a reasonable belief that a child has been abused or neglected, (3) a football coach is not a mandated reporter in the State of Pennsylvania, and (4) despite doing what an educator is required to do when suspected abuse is identified, he wished he had done more. This admission does not imply guilt, it conveys his wish that he could have done more to protect children.

    The post-Memorial Services call-in comments presentation was well narrated by the two hosts. There was a variety of solid opinions and expressive statements made by the callers. One lady caller indicated that Joe Paterno should be faulted for the 2002 “shower incident” because it occurred under his watch. That statement has been made before by a small segment of the populace. Situations should be based on the truth. Her statement and those who agree with that statement are conveying an untruthful statement. The shower incident did not occur under Joe Paterno’s watch and did not occur under Penn State’s watch. Jerry Sandusky was no longer a Penn State employee, he was a Second MIle Organization employee. He was under their watch, they were totally responsible for his actions. Joe Paterno made the incident aware to the athletic director who made it aware to his supervisor. At the same time, the athletic director and his supervisor made the Second Mile Organization aware of it and they did nothing about it. The investigation should have centered around that organization. Mr. Corbett, as Attorney General focused the investigation on Penn State and not the Second Mile. An investigation should be initiated centered on Mr. Corbett and the Second MIle organization. These are the TRUE facts, not opinions. This statement by the lady caller that the event was under Joe Paterno’s watch is absolutely not a fact and is not the truth.

    http://pcntv.com/blog/2012/01/26/public-memorial-service-for-joe-paterno-to-air-live-statewide/

  2. darwinsmom says:

    Silvermoon,

    once again you completely ignore that the board fired him also after they learned that Paterno knew about the investigation and negotiated a face-saving and major financial retirement deal out of it. He conned the board. That he built the library with 4 million becomes pretty much a void statement, when he got at least 1.5 million more for personal gain out of the retirement deal alone.

    He was gonna retire that year, but after conning them out of 5.5 million that way they obviously did what they did to prevent him from also retiring as if nothing happened and he was completely innocent and knew nothing. Had he been less greedy, less manipulative and more honest about his retirement deal they probably wouldn’t have felt as conned by him and even might have let him play out the year or keep the honour of pre-retirement all to himself. But no, the captain knew the ship was about to sink as it embarked on its last trip, and made sure HIS lifeboat was ready before the rest and have it carry as much gold as he could gather, and then when everything came out he pretended to be the honourable captain who’d leave the boat himself. Sole thing the rest of the crew had left to them was shove him in his lifeboat themselves.

  3. silvermoon says:

    Quit twisting what I’ve said. I’m not here to play semantic games with one upsmanship. There’s a lot of that going on and
    I doubt I’m the only one who sees it.

    I have said:
    I don’t think Paterno was a spath
    I do think Paterno would have been tried under legal precedent that was set in Philadelphia and used to convict Catholic Preists had he lived.
    I said that what happened to victims was horrible

    And I said that this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Groupthink on Lovefraud used to push people into agreeing with a popular condemnation of someone as being pathological and that I think the behavior whether its directed at Joe Paterno or anyone else is scary because it could end up creating stupid results.

    Skylar used a letter written by Joe Paterno to evidence his pathology and I objected on the basis that anyone who knew anything about Joe or Penn State would recognize in that letter the voice and principles of a man who was a good influence on the students and campus life at Penn State.

    And I said I have a perspective unique in the conversation: I was there. If you or any of the people calling that Joe was a spath weren’t, you’re missing important context in interpreting that letter.

    Skylar came back and told me that I suffer from cognative dissonance because I disagreed with her base on the evidence tthat has piled up against Joe Paterno.

    She also stated that I need to know that HER SPATH kills people. Why do I need to know that?

    Her point was that I should change my position on Joe Paterno because I suffer from cog/ diss and “her spath” has some kind of rank here of which I should be aware.

    The popular opinion has come forward and said that Joe Paterno should have done more to help the children and that he should have known what Sandusky was. The opinion is that he covered up for Sandusky in order to protect the money machine at Penn State.

    My position is that he probably was as much a victim of a master manipulator as any of us. My perspective on that is that if you knew State College and Centre County, you’d be hard pressed as I am to find the level of sophistication that would have instantly recognized a perpetrator like Sandusky.

    We were all fooled at least once.
    Its the common experience here.

    If you hold Joe Paterno to the fire on LF despite the facts that he DID do what he was legally obligated to do under the law, despite the fact that Sandusky wasn’t working for him at the time, despite the fact that there are a lot of people who were there who hold him up as a man of principle who did a lot of good for 61 years, then I think you hold everyone who has been fooled by one of these disordered responsible for their experience and you are saying that the victims of that experience should be crucified for it to the benefit of any other victim.

    To me, there’s no way out of that spiral.

    Just like the interview with Sarah Lampe from MO, this is a mob mentality and the mob wants to express its anger and take a target. A dead man is a pretty easy one.

    But that doesn’t make it right.

    I feel that I’ve been insulted over and over throughout the discussion and I’m angry about it.

    I’m not apologetic about disagreeing. I’m not going to change my mind that there is something ugly going on here and it should be brought to attention.

    I do feel strongly that the kind of judgement that is based on popular opinion and not facts is a terrifying thing. Not only here but anywhere. And that it is made a politically correct moral high ground by ignoring fact, not doing the homework and taking a position which no reasonable person can argue with.

    In this case, just like in the Sarah Lampe interview that moral high ground is about the child victims of Sandusky. There isn’t a reasonable person on the planet who won’t say that those kids should NOT have been molested.

    But tying that to Joe Paterno being persecuted is a witch hunt when you start looking at the facts about Joe Paterno. About who he was and what he stood for. He walked his talk for a lot of years. And one thing we’ve all learned i to look for that.

    Calling SPATH! is a serious thing. A SPATH is a serious predator.

    There aren’t a lot of people on this site who are not very, very afraid of the disordered because of their horrible experiences. I get that.

    But rage, fear and disappointment in ourselves and other people in our lives doesn’t predicate better judgement. So, I think its incumbent to do research. To seek out facts and then to compare them to the things we’ve learned here at LF which is very valuable.

    Popular opinion and especially popular opinion in the news isn’t trustworthy. The media is pretty questionable all around. Reporting isn’t necessarily about truth and we have to examine it with a critical eye.

    Just the same way we have to learn to change behavior to look critically at what’s true and what’s not in people in our lives so that we’re less vulnerable to a repeat of the experiences that brought us here, so that we can hold the ground of sanity when there are disordered people in our lives.

    If we don’t have the ability to look closely enough to see the difference between fact and politics in sport, in media, in government and in the law, its just not Lovefraud vistims who are at risk, its everybody.

    Calling me names and using the defensible underhand doesn’t change that.

    Twisting my words and throwing indignant huffs isn’t going to change that.

    It doesn’t matter to me in this conversation about all of that, it matters to me that the facts in the discussion are being sidelined so that I can be pressured to agree with the popular opinion here because:

    -The Spaths others have tangled with are worse than the one I did
    – Because Paterno should have been champion to the children who were molested by Sandusky
    -Because I suffer from cognative Dissonance
    -Because I stay up late at night
    -Because I don’t honor the LF blog as much as the people I disagree with
    -Because I’m hurling insults

    My position hasn’t changed and its getting more entrenched.

    I still don’t think Joe Paterno is a spath.
    I am convinced that there are bullies here.
    I am convinced that the popular moral high ground is tangential to the facts about Joe Paterno and the letter he wrote

    I am concerned that if this was ongoing and the discussion was about anyone else than a dead public figure that the GROUPTHINK would behave the same way and I think that’s scary.

    Not all the facts are in on the PSU case and there is an awful lot of politicking going on about it.

    For now, I’m going to stick with my gut on Joe, keep an eye on the facts and watch as more are revealed.

    Regardless of public opinion and the popular moral high ground.

    In terms of healing from a spath relationship, I think that blogging about them is indeed helpful. But using the blog to paint the world with anger and accusation not based on fact isn’t.

    My opinion about what is vicious isn’t changing either.

  4. I’m going to stop this thread until I’ve had a chance to review the comments.