In Defense of State College
I don’t understand why people want to continue kicking down Penn State and the State College Community. The outrage is justified, make no mistake about it. But it has reached such a magnified state of frenzy that a mob with pitchforks and torches are descending upon Happy Valley. The “guilty by association” argument is too simplistic.
Extrapolate that argument, and you have some really tough questions:
Should we bankrupt the city of Boston, tear down Fenway Park, and destroy the busts of the great Red Sox players in the HOF for the twenty years (1971-1990) they knowingly hid Donald Fitzpatrick and his acts of child molestation?
Should we dismantle the Democratic Party for its role in the Japanese internment and subsequent work to suppress it from the history books?
Should we dismantle the Republican Party for its role in covering up Watergate?
Should we bankrupt and tear down the Citadel, for knowingly covering-up sexual assaults in the 2000′s?
Should we bankrupt Rome and tear down every cathedral for its cover-up of child molestation over the last century?
Should we bankrupt the military and tear down every military memorial in D.C. in light of the many lawsuits of rape cover-ups (years unknown)?
Should we bankrupt the FBI for it’s cover-up of flawed 1990s investigations once promised to reveal the innocently convicted, but instead led to not one single report?
If a critic says yes to all of these questions, and will fight tooth-and-nail to destroy the Red Sox, both political parties, the Catholic Church, the U.S. Military, and the FBI, then we will have to agree to disagree. The argument stops here, and we should simply part ways.
Perhaps he or she has never worked for a bureaucracy, and in that context, cannot identify with what went on at Penn State, or the fact that what went on here has sociological implications beyond simply discussing who’s a bad or good guy. Bureaucracies dehumanize workers and officials alike. Organizational Theorists have known that fact for decades and still struggle to develop an antidote for it. But to destroy an entire organization, like Penn State’s, would amount to the destruction of innocent people — people with families and livelihoods, human beings like you and me who also have dreams. Such would render more innocent victims, and although the violation is not sexual, the economic and educational impact will be significant enough to affect many for a lifetime.
Dashed dreams are dashed dreams. Many locals depend on the economic power from the university. Many people would never have been able to receive a college education, or the chance to strive for a better future, if it was not for the discount offered to parents working as faculty and staff at the university. To be a defender of children is to be a defender of ALL children. A scorch-Earth policy will render more children’s dreams dashed, and more victims pondering what might have been. Let us not forget that many people here in this region are those very same victims of child sex abuse. Has it not occurred to critics that many of Sandusky’s own victims are members of our community too?
It is way too easy for a less-well-thought-out critic to dismiss somebody like me as one who cares nothing about children and sex abuse, or that I have drunk the “Kool-aid” of power worship. That sort of dismissal is precisely what led people not to truly study and understand the underlying issues at Penn State, a large bureaucratic organization.
Penn Staters and State Collegians, like me, have every reasonable motive (a term borrowed from the Freeh report) to make sense of the tragedy that occurred. We have every reasonable motive to read each article and report with a critical eye. The sweeping generalizations and calls to punish even the most innocent people in my town and my school, yes even the children, are leveled by those with less connections, those who would think nothing of destroying the livelihood of others (but would hypocritically fight tooth-and-nail if they themselves felt wrongfully persecuted).
For them, there is no reasonable motive to read reports with a critical eye. Collateral damage means little to them. Ironically, with this sort of thinking, there is a need for the very same sort of face-saving, that years ago led to tragic decisions at PSU, but today only leads to the never-ending competition to show that one can be more against child abuse than the next person. Let’s not manufacture a competition about who’s more or less against child abuse and just accept that practically everyone is disgusted by it.
The same pride that led to the downfall of Penn State administrators is now leading to the mindlessness of condemners worldwide who drink the “kool-aid” of media sensationalism. Penn Staters and State Collegians are actively seeking to go through the phases of grief and betrayal (anger and denial are included). Unhealthily, some critics remain stuck in the stage of anger.
There are many flavors of kool-aid, and just because Penn Staters have been called out for drinking theirs, does not mean that the condemners have not already picked out to drink another flavor. We all know what a “mob mentality” is.
Some critics who claim, “I would never mindlessly join a mob,” have real reason to pause and consider if, right now, they have been caught up in one anyway? Some officials at Penn State should have stood up against temptations not to challenge the organizational culture. Today, some critics are faced with the dilemma of whether they too have the strength to face down a media culture of indiscriminate vengeance.
Joe Paterno should have considered going against the dominant narrative. Spanier should have considered going against the dominant narrative. Curley should have considered going against the dominant narrative. Schultz should have considered going against the dominant narrative. So too should the critics calling for the destruction of all of Central Pennsylvania consider going against the dominant narrative.