I am encouraged by an aspect of the child abuse controversy at Penn State. Specifically, I take heart from the fact that many people are not just outraged that such awful things should be done to children, but also that preservation of the success of a football program was given more importance than solving the problem for the children. This outrage is being expressed by many people – including long-time Penn State fans and sports journalists – people who actually have something to lose when they feel and express this outrage.
As Americans we often worship at the altar of success. We do well to acknowledge at times like this how destructive that worship can be.
I’m sure Joe Paterno had his detractors, however small that group might be, as well as those admirers who have just wanted the 84-year-old to retire, both of whom jumped on this bandwagon for his ouster. However, leaving them aside, I sense a real acknowledgement among many people that there is something about our “success culture” that allowed such travesties against children to be swept under the rug.
I am not, by the way, singling out Joe Paterno. The individual who witnessed the 2002 event taking place in the Penn State locker room (and eventually reported it to Paterno) and did not try to intervene would be even more culpable. Nevertheless, every person involved deserves his day in court and due process. All that seems clear at this point is that children were being molested, and, when it was reported, not enough was done about it.
My hope is that this might be the beginning of an awakening in our country that the worship of success is not just futile, it is also destructive…in many invisible ways.