We wait to see how jurors in the Jerry Sandusky child sex assault trial react to the prosecution witness testimony – eight young men who one after the other swore under oath and under threat of perjury that the former Penn State football coach raped and forced oral sex and otherwise destroyed childhood for them when they were young.
Although I did not attend the trial and know all about the danger of shaping opinions in the absence of all the facts, I read account after account in the best newspapers in the country that convinced me that the prosecution witnesses told the truth.
I also believe the defense witnesses.
Maybe Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, didn’t know what went on when the lights went out in the basement of her State College home when Jerry tucked the kids in before they drifted off to visions of devils dancing in their heads.
Still, guilty as charged.
That’s my verdict.
And, ladies and gentlemen of the jury in the court of public opinion, I am not alone. Most of us see the case for the terrible trauma, tragedy and terror for everybody that has played out in court for the past two weeks.
But even when it’s over it’s not over. Even if Sandusky is convicted and spends the rest of his life behind bars, we must not rest and just let it go at that. As long as Penn State is Penn State we must remain Penn State proud.
I’m not talking the way university trustees want me to talk, though. I’m not buying the pep rally mentality and cheerleader blue and white pompoms. I’m not talking “We Are because He was,” like Joe Paterno was god instead of a self-absorbed pigskin millionaire who ignored a plea for help from a graduate student coach that could have saved a child’s life.
No, I’m talking real Penn State proud in the sense that everything I learned in my classes on the University Park campus must be put to good use to protect children and adults from violence, abuse of power and inequality.
My 1974 Bachelor of Science degree says “Community Development.”
Penn State professors Bob Sebring, Peter Meyer and others taught me to challenge authority and take direct action to remedy wrong and do my best to make it right.
Timid alumni brokers want us to forget, to move on and put the bad times behind us like a losing football season. Personal ego trainers want to manipulate what’s left of Penn State power and strangle the pursuit of truth. Callous coaches of cruelty want to disregard compassion because it gets in the way of winning, which, as the locker room mantra goes, isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Luv ya, lions?
Not so fast.
In the past few months, every Penn State official I called refused to take or return my calls. The new president, the new athletic director and even the supposedly sociable public relations flacks refused to respond to legitimate inquiries or come on the air with me to talk live on WILK News Radio.
The national head of the alumni office did return my call but he didn’t realize who I was. I had received a form letter from him at my home telling me how important I was to the Penn State family so I called to thank him. Then I invited him to come on my show and talk about the impact of the chamber of horrors that a Penn State locker room had become. The guy stammered and said he’d have to check his schedule. Of course he never called back.
I am not Penn State proud.
I am Penn State peeved.
And I’m speaking as a good citizen and role model who practices what I preach, somebody who even watches my language as I try to contain my emotion and not let my impulses control my next move – discipline I began to learn in my community development classes. Don’t look for me sitting back and suckering for an army of apologists and mealy-mouthed manipulators who want to sweet talk us into ignorance and a lethargy that only awakens at kickoff and dies when the game clock runs out.
This is not a game.
So we wait. And while we wait I become more and more of a Penn State pest who calls the university president and challenges the power structure princes and princesses to remind them that the best tradition builds on hard core reality. I’ll continue to take it to the man, or the woman, or the team or whoever stands in the way of honor and intellect.
I’ll wait all right, but not for long. Just until I regroup and decide what else I must do to help fight a savage system and help restore public trust and civilization in my alma mater.
Then I’ll do what I can do come hell or high water tunnel.
While you’re at it, esteemed members of the board of trustees, how about restoring my Community Development major in all its pure counterculture glory. At Penn State, you need all the power to the people community development you can get.