Universal Translator

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Immediately before the advent of the white man, eastern Pennsylvania was inhabited principally by groups belonging linguistically to the Algonquins, who occupied a more extended area than any other linguistic stock in North America.”  By an extremely odd coincidence, the Pennsylvania Algonquin language had a word that they pronounced “joepaw.”

It meant “pedophile enabler.”


Lord, lord . . . this Penn State scandal is actually getting worse as it goes on.  And I don’t just mean that worse and worse allegations are coming to light.  I mean that the scandal itself seems to be uncovering more and more people who are all too willing to let it be known that they themselves are also terrible human beings.

My first inkling that there even was a scandal came early Monday morning when I clicked open Balloon Juice to catch up on the news, and John Cole had a brief post referring obliquely to the scandal and linking to the Grand Jury report.  So I clicked over to read the Grand Jury report and learned that in 2002 a graduate assistant named Mike McQueary – employed even now by the Penn State football team – discovered former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky anally raping a 10 year old boy in Penn State’s locker room showers.

According to McQueary’s own testimony, both Sandusky and the 10 year old boy were aware that he had seen them.  McQueary testified that after walking in on them, he decided to go to his office and leave Sandusky alone with his child victim.  In his office, McQueary – who was 28 years old at the time – called his father to ask for advice as to what he should do; his father advised McQueary to come to his house so they could talk the situation over.  While this was going on, Sandusky presumably continued anally raping the 10 year old boy in the Penn State locker room showers.

The next day McQueary visited legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and told “JoePa” what he had seen.  In turn, JoePa met the next day with Tim Curley, Penn State’s Athletic Director, and told him that McQueary had caught Sandusky in the showers “doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

Approximately 10 days later, McQueary was called to a meeting with Curley and Gary Schultz, who was Penn State’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Business.  McQueary repeated to them that he had seen Sandusky anally raping a 10 year old boy in the locker room showers; they told McQueary they “would look into it and determine what further action they would take.”  A few weeks later, Curley told McQueary that Penn State had taken the keys to the locker room away from Sandusky, and also claimed to have reported the incident to The Second Mile, an organization for troubled youth that Sandusky had helped found and through which (it turned out) he obtained children to rape and molest.

But no one, apparently, ever called the police or reported this incident (which was only one among many described in the Grand Jury report) to anyone in authority who might have stopped Sandusky from continuing to prey on children.  Apparently, so far as McQueary, JoePa and the Penn State administration were concerned, they had discharged their duty once they took the keys to the Penn State locker room away from Sandusky.

A few months later, then-Senator and now-GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum honored Sandusky by presenting him with a “Congressional Angels in Adoption” award for the work Sandusky had done with children from The Second Mile.

* * *

Absolutely nobody covered themselves in glory with their behavior regarding this revolting crime.  McQueary – a 28 year old man – walked in on a 10 year old boy being ass-raped and decided to leave the boy and the rapist alone.  JoePa, Curley and Schultz also did nothing but try to sweep this incident under the rug.  God alone knows how many other children Sandusky got a chance to rape while these yahoos did their best to ignore what all these men knew had been going on.

This is something of a longish excerpt, but I think John Scalzi really sums up the situation beautifully:

These things should be simple:

1.         When, as an adult, you come across another adult raping a small child, you should a) do everything in your power to rescue that child from the rapist, b) call the police the moment it is practicable.

2.         If your adult son calls you to tell you that he just saw another adult raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, and then asks you what he should do, you should a) tell him to get off the phone with you and call the police immediately, b) call the police yourself and make a report, c) at the appropriate time in the future ask your adult son why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

3.         If your underling come to you to report that he saw another man, also your underling, raping a small child, but then left that small child with the rapist, you should a) call the police immediately, b) alert your own superiors, c) immediately suspend the alleged rapist underling from his job responsibilities pending a full investigation, d) at the appropriate time in the future ask that first underling why the fuck he did not try to save that kid.

4.         When, as officials of an organization, you are approached by an underling who tells you that one of his people saw another of his people raping a small child at the organization, in organization property, you should a) call the police immediately, b) immediately suspend the alleged rapist from his job responsibilities if the immediate supervisor has not already done so, c) when called to a grand jury to testify on the matter, avoid perjuring yourself.  At no time should you decide that the best way to handle the situation is to simply tell the alleged rapist not to bring small children onto organization property anymore.

You know, there’s a part of me [that] looks at the actions of each of [the] non-raping grown men in the “Pennsylvania State University small-child-allegedly-being-raped-by-a-grown-man-who-is-part-of-the-football-hierarchy” scandal and can understand why those men could rationalize a) not immediately acting in the interests of a small child being raped, b) not immediately going to the police, c) doing only the minimum legal requirements in the situation, d) acting to keep from exposing their organization to a scandal.  But here’s the thing:  that part of me?  The part that understands these actions?  That part of me is a fucking coward.  And so by their actions – and by their inactions – were these men.  (emphasis in the original)

But wait!  It gets even worse.

As a result of the allegations now coming to light, JoePa announced that he would be retiring at the end of this year.  However, the Penn State Board of Trustees – attempting to limit the incredible amount of damage already inflicted upon it by the (in)actions of JoePa and the others – decided Paterno’s resignation was insufficient and so fired him last night.  (They also fired school president Graham Spanier.)

And, in turn, to demonstrate their anger over this decision and their loyalty to JoePa, Penn State students started rioting, flipping cars and turning over a local TeeVee news van.  Because dammit! JoePa deserves better than to be let go just because he brought shame to the university by turning a blind eye to his friend’s raping of 10 year old boys in the locker room showers.  Just think of all those football games he won for us!

* * *

The sister of one of Sandusky’s victims is now a student at Penn State.  In an interview, she tried to describe the pain of going to school there now.  “I’ve just been really upset about it all because a lot of people aren’t focusing on the victims in this,” she said.  “And instead they’re focusing on other things, like football.  As much as you shouldn’t blame the football players . . . they should be focusing on their respect for the families and what they’ve been through.” (emphasis added)

And on today’s Fresh Air I listened to Terry Gross interview a Penn State student who was very upset about the fact Joe Paterno had been fired last night.  The student had written something like, “This is the first day of my life I woke up and Joe Paterno wasn’t the head coach of the Nittany Lions,” and he tried to explain to Terry Gross just how big a freakin’ deal that is – to get her to understand that Joe Paterno is a legend, that for years he has been the face of Penn State football, and that he deserved better than to have been summarily fired over something so insignificant as failing to report the rape of a child.

Me, I think two things about all of this:

First . . .  I get that JoePa is a legendary football coach, and that he was very good at his job.  I understand that he is also something of an institution in his own right.  But when it comes time to weigh his Life, on the one hand we have a whole lot of football games that he has won; on the other hand, we have the fact that he looked the other way while a friend of his raped children.  I’m not too much of a sports guy so maybe I don’t get it, but I just can’t get those scales to balance.  Not in any way that JoePa would appreciate.

Second . . . I can’t help but wonder what went through the mind of the little boy that Sandusky was raping when McQueary walked in on them – the “naked boy, Victim 2, whose age [McQueary] estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”  What did that little boy think when he saw McQueary?  Did he think he was going to be saved?  And what did that little boy think when McQueary turned around and walked away and left him to continue being raped by Sandusky?  What do you suppose went through his mind in the days and weeks afterward, knowing that other adults knew what Sandusky had done to him . . . and yet nothing at all happened to Sandusky as a result? 

And what do you suppose was going through the mind of the young man that little boy grew up to be when he heard last night that Penn State students were rioting because the school had fired JoePa for not saying anything after learning about the rape?  Or when he realized that the students were rioting in support of JoePa, who had failed to do anything about Sandusky?

Watching this tragedy grow, and unfold, and blossom, and spread its madness to others must just be heartbreaking for whoever that young man is now.

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