Now that you all know about the B+ I earned in Philosophy 101, you can go on to challenge this assertion. There is certainly ample evidence in our culture, our society, our world to do so; to argue that human beings are more guided by money or greed or sex than morals. But I won't. I'll argue that human beings of sound mind, while certainly sinners and creatures who often do not live up to their own ethics, know the difference between right and wrong. There is some gray to be sure, but there's also a whole lot of black and white. There's a whole lot of moral imperatives that force us to act because our conscience tells us to.
To ignore them is as grave a sin as there is in this world. To ignore them is to ignore what makes us human. To ignore them, is to become what Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier are; men faced with one moral imperative after one, one fact forcing them to be human, and ignoring it for more than a decade. I'll let God judge these men when there time comes. For now I'll just shake my head in disappointment and wonder what may have been if they had rose to the occasion and been men of strong morals, unrelenting virtue or unquestionable honor.
The egregious acts of Jerry Sandusky cannot be undone. The childhoods of his victims cannot be unruined. The stain on the souls of the men who could have stopped them, and didn't, cannot be bleached away. Those sad facts cannot be changed no matter how much we hope and pray for the children who were devastated by them. In this instance, like so many tragic ones before it, we are powerless in the face of destruction.
So what do we do now? Paterno is dead. Sandusky is already rotting behind bars. Curley, Schultz and Spanier could be following him shortly. Even as we continue to search for justice, even as we continue to hold perpetrators responsible the best way that we know how, we cannot offer relief. We cannot stop the oppressed from living with the sins of their oppressors.
Penn State can, and hopefully will, step up and offer Sandusky's victims financial restitution, which of course will do nothing for their nightmares. Hopefully they can also ensure that the victimized receive conseling and professional help. Help and hope that they can move on with their lives, even if their terror can never be washed away.
Some in the media are also suggesting that Penn State, or the NCAA, or both have the power to do more; the power to send a message. Some in the media are also suggesting that these institutions now face their own moral imperative. They say "ban Penn State Football" in newspapers and talk radio shows and television programs. They say that the severity of the crime demands the extremity of a crippling punishment. They say that devastating an innocent university community, town, and 85 players, is a necessary measure of retribution, a necessary demonstration that proves that we all have our priorities in check.
"Think about the children," they say, as if those who disagree with them don't also have a heart full of condolescenes that can do nothing for the traumatized. "Extreme measures are needed," they exclaim, as if those who don't see their purpose would be afraid of any measure that would restore innocence to the abused. "The punishment needs to fit the crime!" they extoll, as if those who don't see a football ban and decades of disgusting failures as eye for an eye also don't recognize the severity of the crime here.
We all know how tragic and terrible the crime here is. It is by far the worst, most hideous scandal in the history of college sports. It makes the SMU "pay for play" case look like a teenager swiping a stick of gum from the local Piggly Wiggly. It makes Reggie Bush's improper benefits look like a jaywalker crossing an empty country road outside the crosswalk at 4:30 in the morning. It makes Terryl Prior's tattoos look like sketches done by a 5-year-old on his placemate at the Duluth Applebee's. And, worse yet, there is no question that the cult-like worship for Paterno and Penn State football were motivating factors in the cover-up.
This all means that Penn State or the NCAA could "send a message." The new administration could turn out the lights on Beaver Stadium for a year or 5 or 20. The suits in Indianapolis could show the world that this scandal is way more serious than their other comparatively meaningless violations by throwing the rule book at Nittany Lion football. We could all sleep better at night knowing that someone somewhere has the intestinal fortitude to show the big, sleazy world of college sports that some things are just more important.
Better yet Penn State could close its doors completely. After all this was a failure of an entire institution of higher learning whose own president, the man entrusted with its very well-being, didn't have the guts to show anything but "callous disregard" for the victims. Certainly as long as otherwise innocent students are allowed to learn chemistry and economics in Happy Valley, we are not showing the victims that they we are taking their suffering seriously enough.
Then we can shut down the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Boy Scouts of America for a few years to show that people who did nothing wrong shouldn't be attending mass or camp outs until those institutions are punished for their transgressions as well. Then, when everyone who should be punished is and all our messages are sent, the thousands of victims of sexual abuse these organizations are at least partially responsible for will be able to sleep better at night along with us.
Or they won't.
This scandal is shameful and saddening. The fact that it could have been stopped long before it was is nothing short of tragic. Once again, we cannot even begin to explain the kind of sorrow and sympathy we have for the victims. The fact that the men who were supposed to be giving them a voice fell silent to protect a football team is warped and reprehensible.
We can try to illustrate that to the world by shuttering the Penn State football program. We can run and hide and be sad and quiet and feel better about our moral priorities.
Or we can at least try to show the victims that we have learned our lesson. We cannot take away their pain. We cannot alleviate their suffering. But, we can do our best to make sure it never happens again.
The football program is meant to promote and support the mission of a University; not to become it. Penn State forgot that when it mattered most. And unfortunately, it was the innocent who suffered for it.
The university can send a hollow message to show its sorry. Or it can change its culture to show that this is something that will never happen again. Football can exist at Penn State, it just has to exist the right way.
You say that Penn Sate has a moral imperative to shut its football program down. I say they have a moral imperative not to. You say they have a moral imperative towards punishment. I say they have a moral imperative towards rehabilitation. You say they have a moral imperative to wipe the slate clean and prevent themselves from showing progress. I say they have a moral imperative to show us all how football can and should be done on college campus.
Penn State can run and hide and cast off its football program, pretending that the sports absence will solve all its problems. Or it can become a beacon for hope; the rare big-time program who competes the right way. The rare big-time program who has a sense of perspective.
After all football itself was never the culprit to begin with. The real culprits were the people who let it become one.
You say that Penn State should just close its eyes, and hope that once they open them this will never happen again.
I say that Penn State shows us all the way to change by, from now on, doing football better than anyone else.
The crime cannot be undone. The pain can never be taken away. One September or another football will return to Happy Valley, and the victims will still be living with their torture.
Hollow messages will not change that. Perhaps nothing will.
A transformed football program at Penn State however, one that lives the virtue it extolls, could at least show the world that a lesson has been learned. It could at least show Nick Saban or Urban Meyer or Lane Kiffin or anyone else that if, God forbid, this ever happens to them that they better be ready to stand up and speak out, or they will get left behind.
Because some things are more important than football.
You don't show that by quietly slinking off into the darkness. You show it by exposing yourselves in the light of Saturday afternoon. You show it by changing; by setting an example and teaching the young men in your charge how to be ready to face the moral imperatives that may one day be extended to them.