I woke up this morning to the news that Penn State removed the statue of its famous and beloved coach Joe Paterno because of his decade-long cover-up of child rape at the university.
As I listen to a few pundits debate the situation and report about people upset with the removal, I am glad to hear a voice of reason …. “Paterno did a lot of great things at Penn State but nothing good he did supersedes the cover-up of child rape.”
Most people have both good and bad in them. Most people do both in their lifetime. Most people struggle with personal actions that are suspect.
However, erecting a statue in honoring a man whose bad actions destroyed the lives of many people and dismissing those bad actions as something worth forgiving because he helped a team of athletes win on the football field is horrible and a sign of our times.
Our moral compass as a society wants to believe in our heros so much that we are willing to ignore the chilling horror that can be causes.
I’ve seen this in my own life over and over. I believed that my abusive ex husband who nearly killed me more than once with his physical abuse was somehow OK and kind. I have seen a handful of people accept his choice to beat me when he was upset as something unreal and out of character …. an anomaly … so therefore should be forgiven.
Abusers and the like should only be held accountable. Abusers should not be in charge of young men and women’s lives. Abusers should not be allowed to explain their behavior and more than we would allow a thief to explain his need to steal from a home. Abusers are criminals who largely don’t accept responsibility for what they do.
My ex says “I have to live with what I did.”…. Really? Just how are you living with it? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel sorry? Well, I bet its better than feeling terrorize or having flashback of being choked, kicked, hit, spit on.
My ex has never, ever said to me, “You must have felt so scared.” or anything like that. My ex doesn’t feel empathy, so why should he receive empathy for others?
I know that it hurts to give up a fantasy about someone beloved. I know because I have lived it. But, come to acceptance as quickly as possible and let go is the best medicine. I am sorry for all the Penn State students who are sorry to see their hero go, but he was not a hero. He missed that opportunity.