Several years ago, while I was living in LA, I was heading east on the 91 Freeway when I noticed a green Jaguar in my rear view mirror driving very fast as he approached my right side. When he became abreast with my car he rammed into it, then stepped on the gas speeding away. Madder than a hound dog, I took pursuit. While weaving in and out of lanes trying to keep up with this idiot and honking my horn at him I saw a car on my left, their passenger window down. A lady stuck her head out the window and hollered, “We saw it all. We’ll testify. We’re with you. Get that guy!” I was amazed and kept on going now followed by my new friends. Then I saw a car to my right roll their window down and holler, “We got your back! We saw it all. We’re with you. Go get him.” Even more amazed by now I floor boarded it as I saw the green Jaguar head for the Green River off-ramp. I followed right behind him, honking my horn, my head out the window hollering for him to pull over. I noticed my other new friends following the first new friend car.
We all pulled over to the side of the road as the Jaguar came to a stop. I hopped out and went over to where he was standing. “Look what you did to my car!” he demanded pointing to a large dent in his side fender. I was stunned and pointing out the dents in my own car, we soon got into a screaming match. The other two cars emptied of their occupants as they joined us. They immediately began telling the true version of the story and that if he didn’t give me his name, insurance # and phone# they were calling the cops. They were ready to testify. Needless to say, while it took a few months, I eventually received a check for the damage done to my car.
I can’t tell you what this did to my belief in the goodness of human nature, especially the part about being your brother’s keeper. I’m sorry I can’t say the same for what happened at Penn State. Like most of us you are probably in shock. It’s one thing to have deadly accusations of 40 counts of sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky; it’s another to be a witness and not lift a hand to stop it. Tim Curley, the longtime Athletic Director of Penn State had been told about Sandusky sexually assaulting a naked ten year old boy in a team locker room shower. In the midst of all the flying accusations and denials, coach, Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier were fired. The former vice-president for finance and business, Gary Schultz was also asked to leave. It is required by state law that Schultz and Curley were supposed to report to a law enforcement agency any knowledge they had of improper behavior by an adult to a child. This never happened. Are none of them their brother’s keeper? According to Fox News Report, “Among the charges is an alleged assault in 2002 that was not brought to the attention of police, according to a grand jury report, even though top officials at Penn State knew there was an accusation of inappropriate behavior.”
I keep trying to imagine what it would take for an adult who prides himself on the Penn State slogan, “Success with honor”, and is aware of his defensive coordinator’s sexual abuse of young boys to decide that he is indeed his “brother’s keeper” and step forward with the truth. If this had been done when the abuse first started coming to light it might have saved some of those eight boys from carrying the deep shame, the black cloak of humiliation and the sign “I am unclean and no good” that they will wear with silent hearts and pain wrenched souls for the rest of their lives. I would like to have just five minutes alone with Joe Paterno, with the President of Penn State, with Tim Curley. I would like to know how they would feel if it were their son in the headlights of Jerry Sandusky, an innocent youngster about to become a prey. I have a son and to the best of my knowledge he has never been sexually abused. The thought that someone would single him out for such a treacherous deed makes the killer instinct in me come to the fore.
Too many of us think we are not our brother’s keeper. Not my problem. I stay out of other people’s business. Don’t get involved. Most of us (I hope) have the maturity to differentiate between stepping in to save someone from harm and getting involved with something that really is not our business. If you’re in a shopping center and you hear a couple wrangling about which store has the cheaper prices I doubt if you need to step in and either referee the argument or tell them your opinion. On the other hand if you see a child in a stroller and someone grabs that child while the mother’s back is turned and begins to run with it, it is my hope that you (and me if I were there) would give pursuit screaming, “Stop that man,” and eventually wrest the child away from the stranger.
These eight boys (and there may be more) deserved someone stepping in and saving them from the fate waiting for them. If there were at least five adult males who were aware of Sandusky's behavior you can bet there were a lot more than five. That particular problem must have been discussed with others who also felt it was not their problem. The thought that there may be a dozen or more people who were aware of what Jerry Sandusky was doing with young boys and didn’t lift a finger to stop it or report it is mind boggling. Even Tim Curley and Paterno, who had been told about an incident, had an obligation, to follow up and make sure something was being done so that Jerry Sandusky was apprehended. How do they sleep at night?
When following the path that Sandusky took, one can see that the suspicion that he was a pedophile had been evident for years. A child’s school district banned him from their property in 2009. The decision was made to separate him from all program activities involving children at the Second Mile, a foundation he established to help at-risk kids. The irony of this cannot be lost. Charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a fifteen year period, much has been written in defense of Sandusky, how he’s so shaky, how he’s never faced criminal charges and about his distinguished career. The students were upset, congregating in a large crowd near the administration building. Were they upset about what happened to these young boys? No, they were chanting, “We want Joe back!” Football and their beloved coach, who had been fired, were more important than eight children being sexually abused.
I guess they’re not their brother’s keeper either.