The magnitude of Jerry Sandusky’s (former coach at the formerly revered football program Penn State) crime cannot be overstated. He founded a charity so that he could harvest young children for rape. He was likely doing this since the charity’s inception in 1977. We know for a fact that he was at least raping young boys since 1998. We also know for a fact that Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz (“The Four”)–who were four of the most powerful men at Penn State–could have put a stop to these crimes in 1998.
In the end, like so often is the case in our world, self-interest prevailed over what is right. The Four did not want their paradise smeared by the nagging inconvenience of a serial pedophile. If The Four acted in 1998, or even in 2001, the consequences for Penn State football would be severe. The pristine reputation would forever be soiled by the fact that a high ranking coach for so many years was in fact a pedophile. The Four chose to maintain this veneer of spotlessness rather than do what is right: prevent young children from being raped.
In other words, The Four did not want their power, their authority, taken away. They wanted to continue their reign over Happy Valley, like Lords on their Manors. Power, and the authority it creates, must always be challenged. Too often, we do not challenge folks like The Four because we are afraid of the consequences. Will they retaliate? Could you lose your job, like those Janitors who knew of Sandusky yet did nothing?
The Penn State tragedy is analogous to society at large. For example, those Janitors’ fears may have been realized if they reported Sandusky’s crime. They may have been bullied into silence, or lost their jobs. That’s the unfortunate reality. Sometimes doing the right thing will result in negative personal consequences. Given how long Sandusky was allowed to prey upon his victims, my guess is that most of us would NOT stand up to do the right thing. We would choose what appears best for us.
After all, it is built within most of the States’ criminal justice systems. If I see a young boy being raped on the side of the road, I am under no obligation to act, or even to report the crime. This bizarre omission of obligations in criminal law likely contributed to The Four’s inaction.
If people fail to act because it appears to be against their best interests, a counterweight is necessary: Incarceration if you do not act. We should be blaming ourselves as much as the individuals.