Pointing the Fingers of Guilt

Our society is generally clueless when it comes to assigning guilt on the right person — like the one who committed the crime. Women who are raped, for example, are often blamed (wore clothes that were too revealing, got drunk) for inciting the crime committed against them, while the men are too often slapped on the back, as if they’ve accomplished something to be proud of, or they are patted on the head with a “boys will be boys” attitude. Surely, I’m not the only person who remembers Lawrence Phillips, the Nebraska running back who did some very horrible things to women on his college campus, but rather than be banished from the team or properly punished, he was allowed to play and help his team win a national championship (where was the outrage about football culture then? Hm?).

Jerry Sandusky committed a horrible crime against children. Thankfully, he was finally caught and arrested and will live his life in jail. Thankfully, someone was believed when they reported Sandusky’s actions. But you know, when this story first broke, and to this day, the fingers of guilt rarely point in Sandusky’s direction.

Someone did a poll a few months after the story was burning the newswires daily, and that poll found that, outside of State College, the vast majority of respondents believed Joe Paterno molested children. Very few correctly identified the crime with Sandusky. I blame the media for that, up to a point. But society tends to be short-sighted. They all know who Joe Paterno is, so it is easier to make him the bad guy.

The thing is, Joe Paterno did the right thing. He reported the alleged abuse to his direct supervisor — which was the requirement at Penn State (and lots of other institutions). Why didn’t he follow up? I don’t know (neither do you), but I do know that there are legal restrictions on what you can and cannot follow up on. I’m not an expert in the law, but those who are in the know have told me that the right steps were taken at that level. And to those who say, “He should have done more because he was Joe Paterno,” well, most of you are the same folks who tell us to get over our god-complex. He did not run this university, especially in 2011 or even in 2001. He did not run town. He didn’t run the Commonwealth. And he wasn’t perfect.

But he did follow the law. He broke none. And yet, he is held up to be guilty. And we have to ask ourselves why.


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