Are We Penn State
Then it took a week and a half before the graduate assistant was asked to tell his story to Curley and Gary Schultz, who oversaw the Penn State University police department. And then, the grand jury charges, the incident was buried and Sandusky was more or less allowed to maintain his office (though he was supposedly restricted from bringing any children into the building).
This is from one of Joe Posnanski's's recent blog entries on the Penn State contretemps. Joe Posnanski, in case you don't know the name, is a "sportswriter," but really he's a writer straight ahead, a very good one who can probably make you care about whatever sport he's addressing even if you thought you couldn't. He also has a fun podcast, The Sports Poscast, on which Parks & Rec's Michael "Ken Tremendous" Schur frequently guests, but Posnanski hasn't done many episodes lately because he went to State College, PA to write a book about Joe Paterno. Several times over the last few days, I wondered in passing how he would handle that, how he was doing, whether he was sitting on the edge of the bed and just kind of staring into his lap. I wondered how I would handle that, in his position, having to incorporate ongoing history into a planned biography.
I've also wondered how I would have handled the situation that confronted Mike McQueary. As John Scalzi put it in his full-stop excellent piece on the imbroglio, "But here’s the thing: that part of me? The part that understands these actions? That part of me is a fucking coward." Sugar-free exactitude, that. I would love to tell you that, coming upon a grownup raping a child, in the act, I would grab the nearest heavy object and brandish it and yell at the grownup to get away, and stuff the child into some clothing and drive him to the nearest police precinct. I would love to tell you that; we would all love to tell ourselves that. Everyone's cape flutters attractively in the breeze of the subjunctive.
What probably would happen instead is that I would back out of the room in horror. Flee, in fact, on tiptoe, to somewhere small and dark, to process the upside-down wrong thing I'd seen. I would murmur out loud over and over again, "Oh my God, holy shit, oh my God, holy shit, what do I do, what do I do, get a grip Sarah D." and then I think I would force myself to go back to the shower and ask to speak to Sandusky privately, or dial 9-1-1 and then do it, or run to a sightline and spy while quietly dialing…I think I would do that, or something like that. It is not impossible that I would call my dad, though, I have to tell you, primarily because my dad is preternaturally unflappable and has put the brakes on myriad Sarah "NOT WITH A BANG BUT WITH THIS AIRPORT FLAT TIRE"-type tailspins of far less felonious and revolting origin. So, I get that part of it, that the first, visceral instinct is very possibly to go to a parent and say, I don't want this information and I don't know what to do with it, it's too vile and huge, tell me what to do and I'll go do that and then get extremely drunk.
Understand: getting it is not approving of it or excusing it. The fact that I suspect that, in the same situation, I would freeze in place instead of springing into action does not forgive McQueary for doing the same. (Nor is it me fishing for contradictions, by the way. "Oh, you'd never." Well, I really hope you're right and I really hope we never have to find out, and we're just talking here.) And I get why he vapor-locked and called the old man because the old man has seen some shit and he knows some shit, but the next thing I would do…okay, it's actually a list. The very next thing I would do is two belts of bourbon in quick succession, followed by the smoking of 76 cigarettes, and then I would go to a police station and walk up to the front desk and say, can I talk to a detective please like right now.
McQueary didn't do that. Nobody did that. This is the one of the things I can't get past. Let's roll that Posnanski phrasing again:
Sandusky was more or less allowed to maintain his office (though he was supposedly restricted from bringing any children into the building).
In other words, you don't have to rape kids at home…but you can't stay here. We know you do it, but if we don't see you do it, we won't have to deal with it, and you can continue your reign of shame in your squalid little basement torture chamber, on your own property, where we can pretend it isn't happening, and this is where it crosses the line, for me, between "acting cowardly, misguided, and selfish, but ultimately human" and "being a bad person." I think, in that situation, I would do the wrong thing first, or do something right but in the wrong order, or do it too slowly — but I would do something, something, two minutes later, twenty minutes later, I would do something. From what I can tell from the grand-jury document, nobody at Penn State did anything. Not two minutes later, not twenty minutes later, not two years later.
I can't get past that, I just can't. Nobody calls the cops, even with an anonymous tip. (I suppose somebody may have. Reams of information surely exist that the public hasn't seen. That said, if anyone even tried to curb Sandusky's…activities, you'd think we'd have heard about it by now.) Nobody notifies the state agency for child services. Nobody noses around or drops hints at the charity. Nobody takes Sandusky aside and tells him to get help or else. Nobody does anything. …Wait: one detective "advises" Sandusky to stop taking showers with kids. "ADVISES." And: "stop TAKING SHOWERS with kids." Just stop showering with them? Doing weird shit in the wrestling room at a high school isn't showering, so that's fine, no need to report that? Grown men just don't lie around gazing into the eyes of middle-schoolers on wrestling mats, people! Call a cop! Call a teacher! Call the fucking Green Hornet, whatever! You can't not know this is deeply wrong, and you can't just shrug, "…Gross," and go home to the wife and the dog!
And this is the other thing I can't get past: people knew. People had to know. A lot of people had to know. (Not all, please note. Not even most. Just a lot.) The number of people in the grand-jury presentment alone who had witnessed Sandusky, if not outright raping a child, being noticeably inappropriate or memorably WTF with a child? Sizable number. That suggests to me that the actual number of people who saw something off or weird and then went home and prayed they hadn't, told themselves they'd misinterpreted the situation, and made sure never to look at Sandusky for more than four seconds in a row again after that so that they wouldn't see anything else and have to report it, that number probably is much higher. I think people saw, and heard rumors, and knew, and deliberately tried not to know or see; I think when a predator is that prolific, and blatant, the information is out there. I think many more people knew much more than what's in the grand-jury statement, and I think these people assumed or hoped that somebody else would report him, or that he'd just stop, which is not generally on the menu for sexual predators. And which they also knew. And I think Sandusky understood, correctly as it turns out for many years, that nobody would step in his way, and it emboldened him. I can't prove it, that this is something that much of the community agreed not to know officially, and I haven't done a good job articulating what I mean. But I can't shake that feeling, that if just a couple of sophomores in the dorm late on a Tuesday night had started sanduskytoucheskids.tumblr.com and given it a push, things might have turned out differently. Or just as horribly, but over with faster.
And I understand that you can't roll into the cop shop with "I heard from my friend who's friends with the Second Mile security guard that X," or "I saw him holding hands with a kid at the mall and it seemed kind of Y." But this went on for over a decade, that we know about. And this is not tax fraud. Children getting raped. I just…I can't get past it, that sense that people had information that could have put a stop to it, and they didn't use it because it would have been awkward. Or, even worse: they had they information, and they thought to themselves, "Well, everyone knows Sandusky is a bad toucher, so if you get crossed up with that it's your own fault," and they slept soundly. How did we get here, as a society?
You know what, who cares how we got here or how long we've overstayed. Let's just leave while we still can, yeah? Let's vow to do better by each other so we don't have to come back to this place, ever. Let's all of us, heroes and flawed creatures, Batmen and gutless wonders, my sisters in Melodramatic Daddy's Girl Local No. 315, try to remember that not doing the perfect thing immediately is not an excuse to then do nothing permanently. Nobody knows what to do, basically, or how to do it; so stipulated. We don't live in a script and it's always complicated, but we can't give up on ourselves for that, because it means giving up on each other, and look what happens. "It's a hassle to save you, and you're just not worth it" is not something a so-called First World society should say to children, because they're never going to get past that.
Tags: Fire Joe Morgan RIP Gary Schultz Jerry Sandusky Joe Paterno Joe Posnanski John Scalzi Michael Schur Mike McQueary news Tim Curley