What the Joe Paterno Scandal and the Penn State Riots Say About America

As I write this commentary, Joe Paterno has been fired as Penn State football coach — effective immediately. Thousands of Penn State college students are in the streets, angry, sad, disillusioned, emotionally wrecked, overturning cars, and chanting Joe Paterno’s name. The riot police are in place to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. Those aren’t hoodlums with no hope and no future. They are educated, middle class, salt-of-the-earth Pennsylvania college kids attending a well-respected university. What is wrong with this picture? What does it say about America?

Let’s start with the obvious. Why aren’t those educated college kids out protesting on behalf of the little boys who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a longtime Penn State assistant coach? Has America so lost its compass? These kids are in love with a coach because…he’s a celebrity? Because he wins football games? Because he wins football games all else is forgiven? If someone is a celebrity, nothing else matters? We are lucky this isn’t Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton involved in child rape. We’d almost certainly witness mobs burn Los Angeles to the ground to show their support for their favorite celeb-turned-child-rapist. A sad commentary on all that is wrong with America.

Then there’s the actual conduct of Coach Joe Paterno. Here is a good moral man who has spent a lifetime molding the lives of young men at Penn State. Yet back in 2002 he heard from a graduate assistant that his longtime assistant coach was having sex in the shower with a 10 year old boy. Paterno reported the incident to his superiors, then never mentioned it again? How strange is that? He never thought to protect the 10-year old boy? Never thought the boy’s life (or certainly mental state) might be in danger? Never thought to find out who the boy was and talk to him? Never thought that stopping this sexual deviant might possibly save other boys? Never thought to confront his friend of 30 years and ask him what happened? Never thought to follow up with his superiors to ask about the young boys? Never even considered going to the police?

How could this happen in my America? Is everyone truly mad? Is winning football games more important than a 10-year old boy’s safety? How about dozens of innocent little boys? Is protecting a respected institution more important than stopping a child rapist? Why would educated responsible administrators with 6-figure and 7-figure salaries make the same decision to cover-up a heinous crime as priests and bishops and cardinals for the Catholic Church?

Did they not consider “what if that was my little boy in the shower with that 60-year-old pervert?” Or is the reputation of Penn State worth more than a little boy’s innocence? How about a little boy’s life? Did anyone consider that those boys might someday commit suicide from the shame of what was done to them? Is the world really that selfish, thoughtless, and uncaring?

Keep in mind a key fact as we all judge Joe Paterno. The coach/pervert/rapist in question had an office in the Penn State football complex since his retirement in 1999. This incident took place in 2002. So Coach Paterno was told a man with an office in his building was using the football locker room to sexually assault little boys. And for the next 10 years he let the rapist/pervert keep his office in the building? For the next 10 years he let the man continue to conduct business in his office down the hall? He walked by his friend’s office and never thought to confront him about the incident? He walked by that office and never thought about the little boys? He walked by that office and never once thought to follow up with his superiors?

And the students of Penn State think this is a role model? A God? They want to waste their precious time protesting, chanting Paterno’s name, rioting, and destroying property in the name of a man who never thought to protect little boys being abused, molested and raped in his football facility? There is something very wrong, something very rancid in America in 2011.

By the way, would anyone be protesting, crying, chanting, or rioting in the name of a losing football coach? So this is about winning. If you win football games, anything goes? Even the cover-up of child rape is okay? These student protestors are educated, salt-of-the-earth, middle class Pennsylvania kids with the values of a prison chain gang. They learned their values and morals where exactly? MTV? Beavis & Butthead? The Kardashians? Watching Internet porn? It’s all frightening and a sign of the rapid decline of America.

Lastly, I’m betting none of those kids either knows of, or cares, about the important news of the day — Italy joining Greece on the verge of complete economic Armageddon. Or how about the impending collapse of the entire European Union due to perhaps the worst financial crisis in world history. All of which caused an almost 400 point drop on Wall Street. Some believe we now face the very real prospect of a Great Depression II, food lines, tent cities, and a crisis no college student alive today has ever imagined. Their future upon graduation from Penn State may have just taken a turn from dismal to bleak.

But hey…why should that matter? Those students have more important things to worry about: Penn State has a football game against Nebraska on Saturday. This is the bread-and-circus generation that expects government to take care of them from cradle to grave. Now we all understand why.

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