[Explicit, graphic language follows. If this will bother you, CLOSE YOUR BROWSER AND DO NOT KEEP READING. If you go forward, don't e-mail me to tell me I shouldn't have written that, that you're offended, that I'm vulgar. You're a sentient being capable of operating a computer and you have been warned.]
I was wrong about the Jerry Sandusky serial-child-rape case.
Last year, on Twitter, I criticized the focus on everyone but Sandusky, the rapist who had committed horrific crimes against children. It seemed to me that the story had quickly moved past him and on to, if you'll forgive the word, "sexier" names, names like Paterno and McQueary and Spanier. I couldn't understand why there was so much rage against these men who hadn't hurt children, and so little, in proportion, for the man who had. It struck me as cynical of the media to look for a better story, seek out more boldface type, rather than investigate the crimes that did happen.
I was wrong. Sandusky committed evil acts for which he has been tried in this world and, per his own stated faith, will be tried in the next one. He had more help than I realized, however, and in trying to focus my own rage, I did not properly hold accountable the men representing the institution, men who might have come to the rescue of children, but instead did everything but buy Sandusky lube and towels.
On Friday, CNN's Susan Candiotti reported on a series of e-mails among Penn State President Graham Spanier, VP Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley in which the "men" discuss the case in pronoun-laden e-mails, taking care to be as vague as possible. These elite representatives of Pennsylvania State University show their deepest concern not for the broken boys strewn about the community, but for their rapist friend and the potential liability created by even having this discussion. The e-mails represent a calculation so craven as to be bewildering, barely human, a desperate attempt to avoid a responsibility that should be built into our DNA: to protect the weakest among us.
As reported by CNN, the e-mails begin 16 days after graduate assistant
Curley, after a plan had been laid out to alert Sandusky, Second Mile (Sandusky's charity/personal harem) and the child-welfare authorities: "I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved."
After an alternate plan in which only Sandusky would be notified was agreed upon, Spanier said, "I am supportive." He added, in perhaps the worst sentence I have ever read, "The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."
No, Graham. The downside for you, as you see it, is bad publicity. The true downside is children being raped when you might have prevented it. You think you're vulnerable, Graham? You're not vulnerable. You're a coward. Vulnerable is an 11-year-old boy who doesn't understand why his mentor has his dick in his mouth, but is too fucking scared to run away.
Spanier, praising the plan to protect the child rapist: "Humane and a reasonable way to proceed."
Schultz: "This is a more humane and upfront way to handle it."
Humane. Upfront. Reasonable.
At least four children -- that we know of -- would become Sandusky's victims after this exchange of e-mails.
Humane. Upfront. Reasonable.
Presented with two instances of apparent child rape, and given a choice to protect the rapist of children or the children being raped, these three chose to protect the rapist. They didn't report their suspicions to authorities, didn't try to find the children to check on their welfare, didn't even take Sandusky into a small room and ensure than he never raped again.
They Are. Penn State.
There is nothing that can be done for the victims of Sandusky and Spanier and Curley and Schultz and all the other men who knew something and, each for their own reasons, didn't do enough. Now it's about what can be done from this point forward to send the strongest message possible that we, as human beings, side not with the rapist and enablers, but against them.
So here's one idea: Don't wear white and take a moment in between cheers and beers, face painted, head bowed, thinking in whitewashed terms about victims and the bad man who touched them. Don't pretend that a gesture is an action. Go further. Don't spend money. Don't go to the game. Don't buy a sweatshirt. Don't write a check. Don't read a magazine or engage in a discussion. At least four children were raped in part because the highest individuals on the Penn State organizational chart put, however implicitly, the good name of their school and their football program ahead of the welfare of the children in their community. The only way to counter that is to turn that statement around in a way that ensures that the world gets the message loud and clear.
You want to make sure this never happens again? I don't want to hear donations to the university are down 10%, 20%. I want to hear that no one gave money, not a dime, to this diseased institution. You want to send a message that football doesn't matter? I want to see games played with no one in the stands, because no one has the heart to cheer a program that would allow these atrocities to occur, no one even wants to be in the same building as it. You want to align yourself against this kind of behavior, ABC and ESPN and BTN? Don't send cameras to any game involving Penn State, and when someone sues you, you stand behind a podium and you say three words.
Humane. Upfront. Reasonable.
You're an alum? Don't light a candle and choke out a tear…and then write a check and put on your gameday gear and walk to the stadium. That stadium? It's a standing 24/7/365 tribute to what Graham Spanier valued, to the choices he made, to the evil of putting a child rapist ahead of children. These things are hard? Please. You know what is hard? Being a ten-year-old boy and having a middle-aged man shove his cock up your ass. Not watching football? Not sending your money to a school? Not televising a football game? These things are six days on a beach in Maui compared to what these children were put through.
Hard to read? Not nearly as hard as it was to live. That's what happened. We use so many euphemisms so that we can discuss these things in public, but we don't do it for the sake of discourse. We do it for ourselves, so that we don't have to think about what really happened here. These words -- "abuse", "touching", "inappropriate behavior" -- only serve to mask the horror of what occurred: a grown man, a trusted member of the community, having sex with young boys under the guise of bringing them from difficult situations into manhood. Charles Pierce said it first and said it best: this is about the rape of children. The victims who came after February 26, 2001 needed the people who could have saved them to tap into the rage generated by a true accounting of what happened. Perhaps had Spanier and Curley and Schultz said, out loud, what they were dealing with, they would have found their humanity.
If we're to wipe these images away, the ones we replace them with have to be just as indelible. They have to be powerful. They have to say that protecting children is more important than watching football. They have to give strength to the victims of Sandusky, and put fear into the hearts of anyone who would, as Graham Spanier did, enable the next beast. Still photos, perhaps Webcam shots, of 22 players outlined against a green field, under a blue sky, surrounded by row upon row of seats unclaimed by a community rejecting Spanier's vision for State College, Pa., will do quite nicely.
The lasting image has to be a football game, an entire football season, played in front of no one but the heavens above. No fans. No cheerleaders. No cameras. No media. Reject the program that let a predator roam free. Let an empty stadium, an impoverished athletic department and an ignored football season be the ultimate judgment upon Penn State University.
You Are. Penn State.
Show us what that means. Show those boys what that means.