I can sympathize with the outrage of the students who ran to protect their icon, their God – it made sense to me, even if it seemed misguided. What did anyone expect? This myth of Jo Pa wasn’t built in a day and people were wholly invested in it in a huge way. I saw it with my own eyes. Shit! I even started to get swept up in it, even while I was aware of the construction in all my haughty cynicism. And, honestly, part of the outrage of Penn Staters comes from that awareness too. As people suggest that Paterno should behave like the God we claim he is, students were saying: he is not a god, he is a man, and he failed like one. But a real conversation about what really happened and what should happen now was wholly shut down.

I blame the press for misguiding the direction of this conversation – for making this about the icon of Joe Paterno rather than the systematic abuse of young boys and the failings of a system to handle the case appropriately. Instead, in a need for sensation, the press and those on social media outlets rallied against our icon because that was the sexiest headline. And, of course, the student body reacted with violent defensiveness. Real communication, real consideration for how Joe Paterno failed was never allowed to happen. These kids – this community – was never allowed to consider what this all really meant because everyone had to sexy up this story with a celebrity and his myth because, what fun would it be to destroy that narrative so thoroughly for the sake of greedy readers. It made for good television.

Well, I hope that everyone has fully enjoyed watching this spectacle from the outside – that your morbid curiosity and insatiable desire for public scandal has been thoroughly fed. I’m sure that it will disappear from your consciousness as soon as another sexy headline comes along to feed your addictions. But it won’t disappear for us here at Penn State. The identity of this university has been utterly ruined and for all the wrong reasons. The real issues have been thoroughly buried. And now, we don’t have healthy discourse on our hands, we have anger and frustration and camps of “Gotta Go Joe!” and “Stay Joe!” Now, we have an image problem that has occluded the real issue: that a man allegedly raped little boys and that an administration made aware of this fact failed to respond appropriately, making it possible for him to continue. Now we have some perverse narrative about a fallen God and a university that allowed little boys to be raped because our football team was more important.

I beg of all of you, help get the conversation back on track. Subdue the violence and vitriol. Encourage good conversation and help each other avoid generalizations. Find the facts and use them. Use this as a chance to make a better world – a world where we can talk openly and critically and peacefully. Anything but this.


Denise Grollmus is a former writer forCleveland Scene who now teaches at Penn State.
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27 comments
Lee Milass
Lee Milass

the thing that got me when the story broke was the initial comment of Paterno and then spanieri.e."these are allegations",and "I stand 100% behind curly and schulz".  WHAT! I then went to the grand jury report-OMG these people did not say one caring thing about the victims.  The public is outraged.  The board finally did the right thing.  My only thought was when did the board first hear of Sandusky problem?And the da-Gricer that first started the investigation who "disappeared" .  This is starting to sound like a mafia hit is somehow involved.     And then Bradley coming on the air telling us what a great guy Paterno was etc.  Give us a break.  Someone got raped in your football locker room and Paterno,shulz&curly decided to just ignore the rapistpedophile on your staff.  Great well a lot of us just can't put it out of our head that easily. We live in simple land and not big bucksville.

Portann
Portann

I am so sorry, but being a too busy to report the rape of a child just doesnt sit well. It is very clear, reading the grand jury indictment, aside from the media hoopla, that there was a pervasive culture of silence that helped perpetuate a sexually criminal atmosphere. The subsequent furor on campus after the story broke and after Paterno was fired says it all. The level of campus backlash is in direct proportion to the investment that was made in concealing this filth for the sake of the reputation of the university.

Suzenjohnson
Suzenjohnson

This by far is the Most fair article about the Penn State scandal .. This young jounalist is so articulate and straight forward.  As a former General Manager of State College's Tofftress Golf Resort , where all the home games were the lodging facilities of Joe and his footlball team for years i experienced... the Owner of Toftrees was a child molester as well and i wonder if he participated with any of this ... as there were numerous reports from our housekeepers and maintenance and other employees that they witnessed many of the  abusive behaviors. I certainly was  a victim and viewed such abuse from my Employer and his family.. what do you do when you want to keep your job and they threaten, not so nice concequences to you and your family... I applaud those who could come forward... all of this must stop and expecially if it does not ... the young continue even in maturity to more abuses... and may learn to live with it... terrible.. My main career was in State College was in State College and myself as well as other collegues have to live with the abuse our company's owner placed upon us... fortunately for him he passed away before they could put him away.

Metsfan27
Metsfan27

The point of the article is well-taken; the focus should be on the real crime and the victims rather than on the most convenient scapegoat, the highest profile figure  involved.  And I've even asked myself if a busy coach, taking care of players, assistant coaches, media, etc., etc., could have done what he was supposed to, reported an incident involving a RETIRED EX-assistant coach to his superiors, then moved on to the hundred-and-one things he's responsible for and FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT IT.  Heinous in retrospect, but kind of understandable.  But her conclusion belies her premise, because the 2 worlds she's posited, the world of the real and the world of sensationalism, kinda converge in the next to last paragraph--the "real issue,"  that "the administration...failed to respond appropriately,"  and the "perverse narrative," have become the same narrative--the university failed to respond appropriately BECAUSE the football team was more important.

 
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