Too Late To Ask, “Say It Ain’t So, Joe”


Shakespeare tells us in Julius Ceaser that, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones” Let it not be so, for Joe Paterno. I am conflicted about what is right and wrong about all that has gone on around Joe Paterno in the last half-year.  I have thought about it at length going from a Paterno supporter to questioning his judgment and back again.   I have decided that what I will write now  is what I will choose to believe based on certain core values and experiences, knowing full well that others will have different beliefs. I choose to do so because failure to make a decision based on emotional appeal is perhaps the worst of decisions.

Few of us have lived a perfect life.  We  live in a  world of perception vs. reality where the reality of a whole life may be now in our connected world be indelibly marred  by the perception of a moment of imperfection. Not something evil or immoral but simply an imperfection at the wrong moment in the wrong place.  It is my impression from all that I have read of this situation that if Joe Paterno made an error, it was an error of honest or distracted  omission not of intent or commission. I believe that he  did what he thought he was supposed to do  and I would guess that we will never ever be able to determine how it was reported to him and  the whole truth of what transpired after he reported it to his boss.  But we do know that he did report it, he did not cover it up. All can agree that he reported it to the proper authority at which point I would surmise that he was probably told by someone, “I’ll take care of it.” When nothing happened he may have, as an 85-year-old  trusting individual whom I feel believed in the inherent goodness of all people, very well made the assumption that this situation was taken care of or was unfounded.
You must ask yourself as in all exceptions to any rule, ‘Why would a man who had lived in the public eye for decades  and  had shown integrity and a respect for personal responsibility in all aspects of his lifetime,  even if at times when it caused him pain and trouble, suddenly change his whole being for this one incident.

It has been a mantra in science for years that if you get unusual exceptional, or unexpected results you had better have exceptional proof of what happened before you publish. Simply state,”Exceptional claims require exceptional proof.”  Nobody seems to have any proof of  what appears to be an exceptional claim here of wrong doing by Joe Paterno except that we often hear that “He did not do enough” Who among us can state unequivocally that they have always, “done enough?” How many of us have listened in silence or participated in some form of put-down or harassment of those who are different from ourselves and done nothing. How many of us have failed to pursue something that we knew was questionable but was uncomfortable for us. How many of us  have been a part of what could be construed as a criminal act in the wrong circumstances and never made redress.  There are some saints out there who may pass this test but I would guess that they are few, even among the most reverent of cloistered nuns. I am not denying the seriousness of what occurred at Penn State but lamenting the current trend towards always finding someone in power as a credible significant public scapegoat to be held accountable and serve as the sacrificial lamb.  Often  in the process damaging, probably beyond repair, all that was good about that selected person in our seemingly endless need to place blame.  Those who trust those around us are particularly vulnerable to this situation.

I am not normally a bible carrying or quoting person as biblical quotes are often warped so far beyond reality as  to be beyond meaning.  Often with the same quotation used  to support opposing sides of the same issue. And indeed I may be guilty of that same bias now but I believe that Mathew 7 covers most of the territory here. I ask you to read not for religious meaning or context  but in search of a common rule of everyday life that all should follow.

Judge not, that ye be not judged

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thy own eye

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam that is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

I  must agree that perhaps Joe Paterno, ” did not do enough” but that in itself is also “not enough,” to destroy the memory of a life well served.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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