Thursday, November 17, 2011

The brutal truth about Penn State

Here's a great column by Charles P. Pierce at Grantland:
"But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father …" — Matthew, Chapter 6

It was midway through the pregame prayer session that the gorge hit high tide. There is always something a little nauseating in large spectacles of conspicuous public piety, but watching everyone on the field take a knee before the Penn State-Nebraska game, and listening to the commentary about how devoutly everybody was praying for the victims at Penn State, was enough to get me reaching for a bucket and a Bible all at once.

I didn't see the prayer, though I don't live too far from the University of Nebraska football stadium here in Lincoln. But my response, when I heard about it, was similar. (Well, I didn't need a Bible, just a bucket.)

And Pierce goes on to say a number of other things I agree with:
The crimes at Penn State are about the raping of children. That is all they are about. The crimes at Penn State are about the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky, and the possibility that people lied to a grand jury about the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky, and the likelihood that most of the people who had the authority at Penn State to stop the raping of children by Jerry Sandusky proved themselves to have the moral backbone of ribbon worms. ...

(Those people who will pass this off as an overreaction would do well to remember that the Roman Catholic Church is reckoned to be a far more durable institution than even Penn State University is, and the Church has spent the past decade or so selling off its various franchise properties all over the world to pay off the tsunami of civil judgments resulting from the raping of children, a cascade that shows no signs of abating anytime soon.)

There will now be a decade or more of criminal trials, and perhaps a quarter-century or more of civil actions, as a result of what went on at Penn State. These things cannot be prayed away. Let us hear nothing about "closure" or about "moving on." And God help us, let us not hear a single mumbling word about how football can help the university "heal." (Lord, let the Alamo Bowl be an instrument of your peace.) This wound should be left open and gaping and raw until the very last of the children that Jerry Sandusky is accused of raping somehow gets whatever modicum of peace and retribution can possibly be granted to him. This wound should be left open and gaping and raw in the bright sunlight where everybody can see it, for years and years and years, until the raped children themselves decide that justice has been done. When they're done healing — if they're ever done healing — then they and their families can give Penn State permission to start.

If that blights Joe Paterno's declining years, that's too bad. If that takes a chunk out of the endowment, hold a damn bake sale. If that means that Penn State spends some time being known as the university where a child got raped, that's what happens when you're a university where a child got raped. Any sympathy for this institution went down the drain in the shower room in the Lasch Building. There's nothing that can happen to the university, or to the people sunk up to their eyeballs in this incredible moral quagmire, that's worse than what happened to the children who got raped at Penn State. Good Lord, people, get up off your knees and get over yourselves.

Note that I could rightly complain about the appropriateness of organized prayer at an event organized and run by two state universities - haven't these people heard about the separation of church and state? - but even that is not the important thing here.

This is as bad as Joe Paterno's sanctimonious bullshit about praying for the victims. Pierce is exactly right. Jeebus, people, get over yourselves!

Pierce continues with a couple of points with which you may or may not agree:
It happens because institutions lie. And today, our major institutions lie because of a culture in which loyalty to "the company," and protection of "the brand" — that noxious business-school shibboleth that turns employees into brainlocked elements of sales and marketing campaigns — trumps conventional morality, traditional ethics, civil liberties, and even adherence to the rule of law. It is better to protect "the brand" than it is to protect free speech, the right to privacy, or even to protect children. ...

Further, the institutions of college athletics exist primarily as unreality fueled by deceit. The unreality is that universities should be in the business of providing large spectacles of mass entertainment. The fundamental absurdity of that notion requires the promulgation of the various deceits necessary to carry it out. The "student-athlete," just to name one. "Amateurism," just to name another. Of course, people involved in Penn State football allegedly deceived people when it became plain that children had been raped within the program's facilities by one of the program's employees. It was simply one more lie to maintain the preposterously lucrative unreality of college athletics.

Here in Nebraska, I think I can get in more trouble criticizing college football than criticizing Christianity. But this is not the time for that discussion, either.

I did want to mention it, but mostly as a build-up for his final remarks:
On July 20, Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, rose before the Dail Eireann and excoriated the Vatican and the institutional Roman Catholic Church for the horrors inflicted on generations of Irish children, horrors that they both committed and condoned. This was an act of considerable political courage for Kenny. The influence of the Church had been a deadweight on Irish politics and the secular government since the country first gained its freedom in the 1920s.

Nevertheless, Kenny said:
"Thankfully … this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland, 2011. A Republic of laws … of rights and responsibilities … of proper civic order … where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular kind of 'morality' will no longer be tolerated or ignored … as taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear that, when it comes to the protection of the children of this state, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself cannot, and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this Republic."

He did not drop to his knees. He did not ask for a moment of silence. He did not seek "closure" but, rather, he demanded the hard and bitter truth of it, and he demanded it from men steeped in deceit from their purple carpet slippers to their red beanies. Enda Kenny did not look to bind up wounds before they could be cleansed. And that is the only way to talk about what happens after the raping of children.

He's right. And after something like this, when you start mouthing pious platitudes and performing meaningless ceremonies designed to make yourself feel better, well, you should be deeply ashamed of yourself, because this isn't about you.

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