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Unhappy Valley: Penn State After Jerry Joe Grant and Gary

“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.” Joe Paterno

It started over the weekend when roads were blocked leading to Beaver Stadium. Then workers put up a fence. Workers shrouded the statue of Joe Paterno and a forklift raised it from the ground and hauled it away. Workers then removed the likenesses of football players and the plaques on the wall behind where the statue stood. The symbolism was as heavy as the 7 foot tall bronze statue of Joe Pa was carried away in a sling.

It was somewhat reminiscent of the statues of dictators being removed after their death or overthrow.  It was like the smashing of idols.  The empty wall a symbol of the emptiness of success without honor. Honor that was lost when Paterno and other leaders of the University and the Athletic Department covered up the crimes of a serial pedophile and now convicted child abuser named Jerry Sandusky.

We knew that the penalties were coming. It was inevitable the day after the crimes came out and the NCAA talked about them. It was doubly so after the release damning evidence of the Freeh Report and the criminal conviction of Jerry Sandusky.

The penalties fell short of the so called NCAA “Death Penalty” but the results may be about the same. The School was fined 61 million dollars. All of its wins going back to the 1998 season were vacated. It had the number of scholarships that it could offer by 20 per year for 4 years and current scholarship holders are being offered the chance to transfer to another school without penalty. It has been banned from bowl appearances for four years and is on a five year NCAA probation in which more penalties can be imposed.

Penn State fans and supporters of Joe Pa are upset. In some ways I don’t blame them. Joe Pa was an icon in Happy Valley. His coaching abilities were legendary. He was hailed as one of the good guys who made sure that his football players completed their education. The success of the athletic program in particular the football program brought in big money to Happy Valley, it helped the University raise fund programs outside the athletic department. It was a great deal for everyone concerned…well maybe not.

The sad thing is that the student athletes most affected by the penalties had nothing to do with either the crimes of Jerry Sandusky or the cover-up that was engineered by the top officials of the University and Joe Paterno beginning in 1998 for sure, but maybe even before that. It was a 14 year cover up of criminal actions that enabled a serial pedophile to commit more crimes against children. The engineers of this cover-up with the exception of Joe Paterno will likely face criminal charges of their own and the University will most likely be hammered by multiple lawsuits by victims and their families.  The pain for university will go on and on because of the collective malfeasance of Penn State officials including Joe Paterno.

I am not an admirer of the NCAA. One can criticize the cash whores of the NCAA leadership that make obscene profits from the marketing and sales of NCAA College Football and I frequently do. One can criticize the NCAA for its hypocrisy for many things, however for once it probably did the right thing.

Had those that covered up the crimes simply been low level administrators this would have still been a terrible scandal. However, the fact that the most powerful men at the university knew about Sandusky’s crimes and did nothing makes makes the cover up of Sandusky’s crimes more heinous and despicable.  President Grant Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz , Athletic Director Tom Curley and Joe Paterno all knew. They knew details. They all had the power to put an end to the crimes. Had they acted in 1998 or 2001 there would be no penalties. Joe Pa’s statue would still be up. The legend would not only remain untarnished but might have even been enhanced because they would have been on the side of law, morality and simple human decency. Instead they covered up the crimes and in doing so devastated the institution that they supposedly were attempting to protect. Edmund Burke said “When good men do nothingevil triumphs.”

Every day institutions are held liable for crimes committed by their employees, especially when they knew about them and did nothing to stop the perpetrators. For once a premier college football program has been has been held accountable. It is about time. I hope that the NCAA has the moral fortitude to be as severe to other programs should another administration decide to cover up felonies.

This is not pleasant. The action is a watershed event because it is the first time that the NCAA has ever assessed penalties in a scandal not related to recruiting or paying players. The NCAA has finally laid down the law on something that really matters. It will be interesting to see if any other institution elects to cover up the crimes committed by leaders in their athletic programs.

This will not make those that loved Joe Pa and his program feel good. It is a bitter pill to swallow and Happy Valley will never be the same. If I was a Penn State graduate or had a personal connection to that university I might feel just as they do.

What has transpired since November is something that this time last year no one could have ever contemplated at Penn State. Maybe we could think of it happening somewhere else but not there. Joe Pa would never allow it. So we thought and we were wrong. According to the Freeh Report he not only allowed it but played an active role in the cover up. Paterno’s family and some supporters continue to fight for his legacy. That is their right.  However when those involved in the cover-up go to trial and when the lawsuits are brought, the case for Joe Pa will not be any better. In fact it may be even worse than we know now.

Hopefully as bad as this is that it will make leaders of other large athletic programs around the country take notice. Hopefully it will prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Danger of Right Wing and Left Wing Extremism

“Let everyone regulate his conduct… by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.”  William Wilberforce

The past two weeks have been a watershed in modern American History.  For the first time in memory we have had a series of ideological, political and religious murders committed by men who believed that their actions were justifiable homicide.  The first was the murder of a physician who had a fair amount of his practice devoted to abortions including late term abortions.  George Teller was killed by Scott Roeder a militant anti-government member of the Freemen and a fringe player in anti-abortion groups who was influenced by the militant anti-abortion group The Army of God which believes in justifiable homicide.  The murder was in Tiller’s church.  The clinic which Tiller operated is being shut down by his family.  Roeder believes it a victory but many in the pro-life movement are concerned that it will lead to crackdown on mainstream pro-lifers, and also that the closing of the Tiller clinic could lead to similar attacks by those emboldened by Roeder’s action.

The second killing was that of Army Pvt. William Long outside of a recruiting station in Little Rock.  The confessed murderer used an assault rifle to kill Pvt. Long and wound another soldier serving as home town recruiters prior to reporting to their unit following their initial entry training.  The suspects, an American convert to Islam named Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he didn’t consider the killing a murder because U.S. military action in the Middle East made the killing justified.  “I don’t think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason.”  Mujahid Muhammad warned soldiers and their families in the US that they were also targets: “The battlefield is not just in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Muhammad says.  “A battlefield is anywhere we see you at.  And those people in the Army and those families of the people in the Army and the military and personnel all over the country, if you don’t want to die or get shot for this so called war on terrorism, war on Islam, then get out of the Army.  Get out of the Army and don’t walk, run.” This attack followed other attacks on recruiting stations including the bombing of the Armed Forces Recruiting station in Times Square last year.

The most recent attack occurred today as an 88 year old White Supremacist and Holocaust denier James Von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Memorial Museum killing a guard.  Von Brunn’s sites as well as other Neo-Nazi websites such as Stormfront prominently spew Von Brunn’s hatred toward minorities in the United States.   His book, “Kill The Best Gentiles,” embraces Adolf Hitler’s view that Jews concocted World War I as part of a scheme to stab Germany in the back — a myth the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust. He is called an “independent investigator by some and has issued statements on the citizenship controversy pushed by some on the far Right about President Obama’s eligibility to serve as President  and comments about the religion of then CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks.

All three of these men evidently believe in justifiable homicide and are willing to kill for their ideological or religious beliefs.  What makes this sudden spike in assassination for ideological reasons significant is that the nation is polarized by the extreme Right and extreme Left which both see the world and their causes no matter what they are in black and white terms.  There is no intent by any extreme group to dialogue or find compromise with their opponents, even if such compromise would gain them at least part of what they want.  Instead, the rhetoric of the extremes has continued to increase and find airtime on supposedly “mainstream” media outlets both liberal and conservative.  This provides some manner of legitimacy to the extremist groups even as their more boisterous political and media supporters ratchet up the rhetoric.  This makes for an incredibly volatile situation which is fraught with danger for all as more and more people see violence, including justifiable homicide as a legitimate option to push their agenda.  In our country we cannot forget that John Brown, though right in his desire to end slavery engaged in tactics which helped push the country to civil war, a war that while freeing African-Americans from the yoke of slavery imposed a yoke nearly as heavy on them, know as Jim Crow laws that lasted until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Voting Rights Act of 1964.  Even still racism is still a reality for many blacks and other minorities.  Brown’s desire to end slavery may have been righteous but he destroyed the political center which could have ended it peacefully in time just as William Wilberforce and his allies in Parliament had done in England.

The perilous situation that exists now is that which erodes the center on which all depend on to hold.  Neither Left Wing or Right Wing extremists give a damn about the majority who are somewhere in between.  As a passionate moderate I see this as a dangerous trend.  In Germany of the late 1920s and early 1930s both the Communists and Nazis polarized the nation.  The more moderate Social Democrats, Catholic Center Party and other smaller middle of the road parties were marginalized as time went on.  Eventually the Nazis won that power struggle with dire consequences which extended far beyond Germany.  As the rhetoric rises and those who justify violence be it against people, institutions or property are emboldened to act it will further fracture the middle.  It is imperative that the Center to hold, as Edmund Burke said: “All it needs for evil to prosper is for people of goodwill to do nothing.”

These actions could well be harbingers of things to come.  What is even more concerning as they take place at a time of worldwide economic crisis when we have hundreds of thousands of troops deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, North Korea rattling sabers and several critical nations, some with nuclear weapons on the brink of collapse, failure or civil war.  I pray that men and women of goodwill and courage arise in the center and passionately advocate not for a particular party or cause, but the good of all.  People of faith need to pray not for a particular political resolution favorable to them, but for God’s peace and healing in our country.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary