November 11, 2011

The cowards of Penn State

Megan McArdle tries to understand the motivations behind monster Jerry Sandusky's enablers:

Actually, I can forgive the walking out. No, really, I can. I can imagine myself walking in on a scene so horrible that I couldn't quite believe that it was actually happening. I can imagine it taking me as long as five minutes to convince myself that no, really, it actually happened, and either walk back in there and do the right thing, or fetch someone else who would do it with me.

Like everyone else, however, I cannot imagine how a bunch of people somehow tacitly agreed not to do anything about it. [. . .]

But perhaps because the heart of the darkness seems so incomprehensible, we've mostly been talking around the edges--stating the obvious, over and over, as if the mantra could reassure.  It really goes without saying that we are outraged and saddened by these events--I literally almost vomited upon reading some of the grand jury report.  We are all agreed that this is awful, and also that yes, we should never forget the potential for evil that breathes within all of us.  It is virtually redundant to note that everyone involved in this scandal should be fired, and made to feel their bleak shame for the rest of their lives.

Saying all these things may be necessary, but it is not sufficient.  We're all still left with a large, unanswered "why?"  I am fundamentally a cynic: I believe that people will do almost any awful thing.  But I need a reason. And I cannot find one in any of this.
Perhaps it was simple cowardice. Brad Thor tweets:
Brad Thor: #Paterno & #McQueary are #PennState cowards who abetted a monster. Did the least amt possible. Real men do the right thing. #shameonthem.
Search "McQueary coward" and you get 38,000+ results. I'm tempted to add that our culture doesn't exactly promote children as a precious asset worthy of our protection, but maybe that's taking it too far?

See also:
Paul Campos: The Mystery of Cowardice
Now here is the detail that, among all the details in the Grand Jury’s extensive depiction of the morally depraved behavior of Sandusky, Curley, Schultz, Paterno, PSU president Graham Spanier, and McQueary, is perhaps the most shocking: Five years after this, in the spring of 2007, Sandusky was attending PSU football practices with his latest rape victim: a 12-year-old boy who he had met through a Second Mile camp conducted at PSU, and who he was in the process of, among other things, orally sodomizing.

At this point, McQueary was no longer a graduate assistant, as he had been promoted to an administrative assistant position on the football staff a few months after his meetings with Paterno, Curley and Schultz, and was made a full-fledged assistant coach the following year. So Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno were at the PSU football practices to which Jerry Sandusky was showing up with his latest child rape victim in tow. They saw him, there, with his latest victim. They could not have had any doubt, at that point, about what they were seeing. [. . .]

Football is a hyper-masculine world, within which it’s a common insult to use women’s genitalia as a synecdoche for insufficient toughness and bravery, but I’m quite confident the women I know best would have displayed far more sheer physical courage in a comparable situation than McQueary did – and that most certainly includes my 4’10” 100-pound Aragonese grandmother.
Much more. Read the rest. Also see:

Rod Dreher: Don't Be Like the Coward Mike McQueary

Mike McQueary Becomes Enemy No. 1

McQueary’s dad: ‘it’s eating him up not being able to tell his side’
I can't imagine anything he could say that would excuse his walking away from that boy.

For those with strong stomachs, here's the grand jury report.


Updated to add David French: Penn State and the Wages of Cowardice
It was cowardly for a 6′4″ graduate assistant to witness the rape of a child by an older man and not only take no action to stop it but also not even call the police. It is a sign of extended adolescence — no, extended infancy — that instead of doing anything to help a child in distress, he called his father, acting not like a man but like a child in distress himself.
Read the rest.


Just noticed this from Adrienne, which begs for inclusion: Where have the real men in this country gone?... are there any left? Any??

Many thanks to Doug Ross for linking.


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  1. I don't know if women are more courageous overall. I think it may depend on the situation. I think the answer might lie in our evolution, that is to the extent that it is an influence on our behavior.

    Males of all species are typically not the ones rearing the children. In many species, the males can even be a threat to the young especially when they are at their most vulnerable. Cats are a good example of that. We've always known, in spite of all attempts to reprogram our own species, that women are just more interested, more committed and just all around better at the care of children. This is not to overgeneralize of course. There are plenty of women out there who should never have a child left in their care and plenty of good fathers who are great carers. But in general, I think this is true. There is a difference.

    I don't say this as an excuse but merely as an attempt to answer Megan's question, why? Could a man be wired in such a way that he just could not cope with what he saw? In contrast, I can so easily imagine what I would have done. Hearing about this makes me so mad, I have no doubt that if I had seen this horror I would have grabbed the nearest thing not tied down and started beating the bleep out of the bleeping pervert. I think that a lot of women would have done the same. I think we are, in general, hardwired to go ape on anyone who would hurt our little ones. It makes sense if you think about it. Who would more often than not be close to the children back in prehistoric days? The man who would often be working very hard to find meat for the family? or the woman working close to home?

    But in the end, its all academic. Even if we knew why this could happen, it wouldn't diminish the horror of what happened even one little bit. Nothing could that at least not until the day when the tears are wiped away from every eye. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

  2. To Peggy38 Above:

    Bullshit! to your thesis that women are more protective to offspring than men. First of all, why are these mothers letting their sons spend "overnights" with a grown man? And why is the one mother demurely asking Sandusky if he is touching her son's genitals and then making him promise not to do it again. It almost sounds like she is flirting with him. Men and women can be equally remiss in protecting their children. I venture to say that most who divorce are putting their own needs before their children's. That is why divorce is evil. Your post sickened me, Peggy.

  3. And, Peggy38, you end your comment with "Come Lord Jesus". Ditto that...come and save Peggy38 from her wrongheadedness and faith in the false god of science whatwith its pop psychology and anthropology that pits the sexes against one another.

    May Peggy38 learn to look to the Holy Family for the truth about men and women and parenting...complimentary and equal.

  4. I think the answer is greed. How to handle the inconvenience of pedophilia without harming the football program and it's considerable revenue. These men were more concerned with saving their own asses to worry about what was happening to children in Sandusky's care. Everyone who grabbed the broom to sweep this under the rug had a financial stake to cover.

  5. Whoa! Redfeather, way to completely misread my post. If you had actually read my post you might have seen my liberal use of qualifications for every statement of opinion that I made including the fact that there are women who should not be trusted with children and men who are good parents.

    Geez way to go off for no reason! Wow. So if I believe that there is any role for evolution in a God centered universe then I am a digusting science worshipping atheist? Try again, buddy.

  6. It's PC.

    If this McQueary had seen Sandusky sexually abusing a girl, outrage would have kicked in and he's have dragged him to the police station - probably.

    But when a straight man catches a glimpse of gay sex, he gets disgusted. Now they're trying to re-educate that impulse out of straights, so he McQueasy felt guilt about his gut reaction.

    He did tell somebody, but he was cautious because he was afraid to be reviled as a homophobe and fired.

    Yeah, he's a coward, but it's brought on by our culture of license and the personal attack tactics of gay activists - they ruined businesses and careers of those who supported Prop 8 in CA.

  7. Divorce is evil? Geez, Redfeather, how can you trivialize evil after this story? Sometimes divorce is selfish, other times it can be a Godsend. Lighten up.

    The false god of science, what, because peggy38 talked about males being "wired"? All humans are "hard-wired" to love their children, that's why no Commandment on the subject was necessary. It's God did the wiring. (Heard this first from Dennis Prager.)

    And there's nothing wrong with science! Darwinism is bad science, but that cannot make science bad.

  8. Wow, I keep getting the last word here. Maybe I should switch mouthwashes...

  9. Walt, I thought I was the only thread-killer? Maybe I'm not alone after all :-)

    The only time I do not kill a thread is when I have the first comment, ahem, though I don't usually get reactions like the one above....

  10. Thanks, Peggy. Enjoy your weekend.

  11. A reader sent me this comment by email:

    "Cowardice is a part of human nature that can make us act against what we know if we will pay a price for doing so. The commenter that references the cultural penalty for disapproval of homosexuality has identified one of the reasons for the cowardice displayed by many involved in this series of events.

    Another primary reason that nobody did anything is the training most of us receive in public school. From the time we are small children, we are trained to conform to the expectations of the system, to go along with the rest of the group and don't make waves. Reporting the crimes to the police would have caused massive disruption in the normal flow of daily events, which is strongly discouraged starting in preschool.

    In addition to the masculinity Campos talks about, football is a world of strong authority figures. From the time we are young, we are trained to submit to authority, not to talk back or question authority and certainly not to buck, interfere or fight back against an authority figure. A certain amount of this is necessary for society to function but football goes well beyond necessity and makes coaches infallible gods, particularly when they have a winning record. One quote that I've seen numerous times is, "You just don't say 'No' to Jerry Sandusky." Well, when he's doing something that is objectively wrong, not only is it right to buck his authority and make tsunami-size waves, it is morally imperative to do so.

    Training or conditioning is difficult to overcome but it is vital that we do so in order to have a check against evil."


  12. You're talking about a jock culture that only most recently even started to question its acceptance of hazing sodomy as mere 'boy's play'.

  13. HT:

    "You're talking about a jock culture that only most recently even started to question its acceptance of hazing sodomy as mere 'boy's play'."

    Glad I didn't go to YOUR school, dude - geez.


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