Former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex assaults against children and the subsequent cover-up by the most powerful men on campus, including disgraced legendary coach Joe Paterno, turned University Park into a hell on earth for countless young boys who suffer to this day.
Instead of protecting the innocent, Paterno willingly shook hands with the devil.
And now Penn State must suffer.
Paterno’s legacy will forever remain demonic. Paterno’s defenders will forever remain delusional. Paterno’s name will forever remain synonymous with dishonor.
Cast into the fire of eternity, Paterno is beyond redemption. But what about the rest of us? Does hope exist for us? What about salvation? Can anybody save Penn State? Will anybody redeem Penn Staters?
As a graduate, I am not Penn State proud. Yet I am willing to fight for what is right, what Paterno called “Success with Honor,” as we struggle to battle our way back into the good graces of civility, accountability and achievement.
Such progress is slow, particularly for Sandusky’s victims who also are victims of a massive system run amok, a kingdom of darkness that encouraged Sandusky to flourish – a system led by Paterno and his out-of-control ego that charged from the tunnel of self-absorbed privilege with his index finder raised to the heavens.
We’re no longer number one. We’re nothing. We’re zero. We’re in a Penn State purgatory that could hold us hostage forever. So where do we go from here?
First stop for me is the Creamery, that wondrous Main Campus oasis of ice cream that is the first stop for so many wide-eyed children who find their way to campus. The ice cream is fresh and cold and wonderful. But one flavor is poison and must go. Nothing peachy exists in the “Peachy Paterno,” a left-over flavor from another time when too many believed the myth and succumbed to the black magic that cast a spell that killed children’s dreams.
Creamery officials say they will continue to sell Peachy Paterno and donate the proceeds to an unnamed organization that works with the issue of child sexual abuse.
If that happens, ice cream money becomes blood money. Healing cannot and must not be in any way tied to the name of a man who turned away from desperate lost boys who screamed for help that Paterno did not provide. If university officials refuse to dump the Peachy Paterno the way university officials dumped the pathetic Paterno statue in front of Beaver Stadium, weekly pickets must be set up at the Creamery entrance until they acquiesce.
No room exists here for negotiation.
Nor does negotiation exist for the future of Northeastern Pennsylvania political power-broker Keith Eckel, a millionaire businessman and member of the Penn State board of trustees who refuses to speak publicly about the sanctions against the university and his role in the scandal.
When I reached the Clarks Summit celebrity farmer and agricultural wheeler-dealer several months ago, he curtly replied that he would have no comment. When a reporter reached him yesterday, he directed the press to contact university public relations staff members who, at best, are lackluster and shallow Penn State parrots.
Eckel has outlived whatever usefulness he might have once served. He ought to go back to his conservative Republican philosophy that cuts social services to damaged children and strains credibility as it is, letting the future of Penn State up to people who are brave enough and responsible enough to truthfully answer the hard questions.
Without candid discussion, little promise exists for the school. Without Eckel, new confidence might be possible.
Too many demons exist in this passion play. Too many fiends still lurk in the shadow of the Nittany Lion, hoping not to draw attention to their own devious agendas so they can one day regain their ignoble stature and again do as they please at the expense of anybody who gets in their way.
My trust is in Penn State officials has been exhausted. Even the good ones, and good ones must exist, must now prove to those of us who want to believe in Penn State’s mission that they deserve our trust. I doubt that I’ll ever put faith in their power. But I will confront their secrecy, the bureaucracy and the gross incompetence of the Penn State masters. I will try to exchange what is wrong for what is right in the midst of a paradise lost, a pit overrun with monsters that willingly fell from grace to prowl classrooms, locker-rooms, hotel rooms and Old Main, embraced by a wealthy football culture that simply didn’t care.
Penn State vs. The World?
Try Penn State vs. the Underworld, a vile dirty place where evil prevails until it is stopped here and now, forever and ever, amen.