Before we can properly punish Sandusky and those who protected him, we must first point the finger of blame at ourselves, Tom Matlack writes.
I tuned in to my favorite sports radio talk show again today just to check: is it still all pedophilia, all the time?
The 20 minutes of the broadcast I caught centered on then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, what he failed to do to protect a child being raped, and how McQueary should have killed Sandusky with his bare hands—and, for failing to do that, he himself should get the electric chair.
Don’t get me wrong; I am all for a national discussion of child abuse. But my question really is: Where have you guys been this whole time? When the Catholic Church scandal broke here in Boston, no one called sports radio to advocate the firing squad for Cardinal Law. We don’t get hour after hour after hour of rehash on the national morning shows on the trafficking of minors for sex.
So why does this one pedophile make the collective male skin crawl when so many before were shrugged off?
A few days ago on the very same sports talk show, I heard an FBI agent who spent thirty years investigating child abuse explain that Penn State is no different than a thousand other schools, universities, camps, and religious groups whose mission is to care for children but where pedophilia has grown up, been protected, and continues to this day. “The idea that some stranger is going to rape your kids is exactly false,” he said. “It’s almost always someone who you trust, someone you probably like, someone you have a hard time believing is capable of such a thing.”
And yet none of us want to talk about the problem in our midst. We want to talk endlessly about Joe Pa.
I think it has something to do with the idea that perverted sexual activity was occurring these last decades right at the very epicenter of masculinity—the PSU football locker room. We thought we knew what it meant to be male and good, and we have now found out the exact opposite is true.
What really fucking pisses us off isn’t the badness itself; as part of the great wave men buying pornography and sex overtakes our country, we have been perfectly willing to look the other way as sex crimes accelerate. It’s the hypocrisy. That shit brings up fantasies of ramming inanimate objects up Muammar Gaddafi’s nether regions before putting a bullet through his head, or tossing Bin Laden off an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
That’s what I keep hearing about over and over again: male rage. We can’t believe that this little boy was raped. That dozens of other little boys were raped. And that it happened inside the most venerated sports brand on the face of the planet, aided and abetted by Vince Lombardi himself (not really, but you know what I mean).
We like a constant world order, and this shakes up everything—even if you are a dumbass, beer-swilling college football fan. I really don’t want to think about child rape, but now I have no goddamn choice. So batten down the hatches, boys—I’m going to make sure all those perverts get strung up even if I have to fly down there to Happy fuckin’ Valley myself!
Perhaps the hardest question of all: What do we do to punish Sandusky and those who protected him?
Let’s start with the problem. To date, we have been unable to bring hardcore pedophiles to justice because, frankly, not enough people cared or were educated on how damaging this behavior is to the victims. The instinct has been to try to sweep in under the rug and hope that it goes away. And when it doesn’t (Catholic Church, anyone?), the worst offenders are sent to prison, where they die or are killed and the victims are paid off in civil court for their hardship. Not a lot changes.
Joe Paterno is a devout Catholic. Don’t you think he might have connected the dots from the large number of priests who had done so much harm to the abuse happening right under his nose? The answer is an obvious no. We have not learned our lesson.
But amidst all this narrowly focused hate directed toward Sandusky, Paterno, and McQueary, I really wonder where we are in dealing with the underlying issue. You can give all three the death penalty (it is amazing to me that at this writing Sandusky is free on $100k bail, but that is a side issue) and that still will not do anything to protect the country’s children or deal with the much larger truth that angry callers on sports radio refuse to acknowledge.
We all share the blame here.
I was brought up a Quaker pacifist and continue to believe that the death penalty is inhumane and inappropriate for any crime in a civilized country. That doesn’t make me a wimp—just a guy who would rather look deeper than frying criminals as a solution to society’s ills.
What little I know about pedophilia is that it is a very sick and perverted form of addiction. That’s why pedophiles are so manipulative, with each ending up harming so many children.
If we take the view for just a moment that a guy like Sandusky is mentally ill—pathological, if you want—what does that say about responsibility and the best way to punish those who are found guilty?
I’m all for preventing child abuse—and that means taking pedophiles off the streets and dealing with them in whatever way best insures no child will ever be harmed by them again—whether through long prison sentences, locked mental health facilities, or neutralizing the perpetrators’ sexual drives through drugs or surgery.
But the only way we are going to really deal with this problem is by admitting that we collectively have let it go on way too long—not just at Penn State, but also in our own churches, at our own schools, in our own communities. It’s the lack of action—the cover-up—that perpetuates the problem.
The pathologically ill pedophile is not ever going to stop. He (or she) will keep going until we stop that person—and up until now we just haven’t done enough to do that. Yes, we can rant and rave nonstop that those involved at PSU should be brought to justice. But that won’t change what happened—and it doesn’t acknowledge the real problem.
The real problem is that until now we haven’t wanted to look at sexual misconduct in our own communities. And it’s about time we did.