For many of my last few posts, I have been focusing on the power of positivity amongst other things, but I have not felt very positive this week. I've waffled between anger, sadness and grace. When I first read about the Paterno scandal as is my nature, I had to know the real facts. So, despite piles of work and schoolwork to do I read the 20+ page inidictment and went home and wanted to puke. I was so angry. How could all of these people have been part of this culture of complicity?
It is not my place to judge, but I have to say that over the past few days I have come to appreciate being a child of parents who by their example taught me to not only question authority, but to always look out for the disenfranchised, to protect the innocent. My parents were children of the 60s. With that came the good and the bad. They were not perfect, but they taught me right from wrong and to stand up for what I believed. And, when the not-so-good part of being a child of the 60s broke apart their marriage, I saw first hand the fragility of humanity, how weak we all are and how selfish we can be. So, I really began to question authority. In my life I can say without a doubt that I never idolized any human, or institution, and that most of my mentors were anti-mentors - people who taught me how not to be.
In 2002, I was 29 years old - nearly the same age as the graduate assistant who witnessed the sexual assault of a young boy and instead of calling the police, or attempting to stop the assualt, he called his father and then later told the head coach of the football team. It is easy for me to say what I would have done - I would have pulled that man -twice my size - off that kid. No job, no fear for my own preservation would have stopped me. I can say this because I have unfortunately been in a similar situation before. However, that doesn't give me the right to judge that graduate assistant. I can only thank God he testified truthfully to the grand jury, knowing that he might lose his job.
In fact I have no right to judge anyone in this situation, but I do have the right to call to question what I see as a true failure of leadership in this country and across the world. Yes, we are all human, yes we all make mistakes, but what is it going to take for people to stand up for what they believe, to have the courage of their convictions. Do people even have convictions anymore? Or, are we so blinded by the "success" engine that seems to fuel our everyday lives. Did this graduate assistant fear his own job so much and success path at Penn State that he didn't followup to see what happened?
The great recession was caused by our own greed and belief that we deserved bigger houses, better vacations, more things and the folks who convinced us that we did deserve them so that they could get bigger houses, better things. We felt we deserved this because this is what we think success looks like, what life looks like. But, let's be clear, this is also about the abuse of power and about people who prey on the weak. What drove McQueary's silence and what drove the silence of the janitors who also witnessed sexual assaults are two very different things and they illustrate a fracture in our society between those who have and those who have not.
All I can say, is God help us. When are our leaders in Washington going to stop hiding behind rhetoric and start helping to solve problems? When is the government going to figure out what to do about the housing crisis? What does it take to make people do the right thing. Exposure? Is that our only tool? If no one had ever come forward how long would the engine of Penn State continued to rest on its laurels as a success story of academic integrity and football prowess?
I don't think exposure is our only tool. We have to have the courage to examine ourselves, to understand what is important and what isn't - we have to have the courage to be leaders. Once we have done this, we will be able to stand up and demand that the right things for this country, for this situation at Penn State, are done. We are not powerless. We have a voice. It's time to stop demonizing others, blaming others and become leaders. We can take to the streets like they did in the 60s, we can use blogs to share our opinion, we can write letters to our government leaders, we can vote. But I believe the most important thing we have to do is re-evaluate who we are, the things we live for, what life means to us, what we want life to be, what we want humanity to be. We have to reimagine our current reality and then we have to have the courage to do something about it.
I pray for the souls of all involved in this situation that they discover the true grace of God, that everyone finds healing. But, most of all, I pray that people stop idolizing things and institutions and that people start to realize their own power, their purpose, that this life isn't about a race to the top of the hill. None of us are perfect and we struggle each day with our own weaknesses. But, we need to relentlessly continue to ask ourselves the hard question - what happens once you make it to the top of the hill? As Sisyphus knows, if you are prideful and worship power, all that's left is to go back down and start all over again. Is that the life you want to lead? Is that what we want our example, our legacy to be?
Freeing Sisyphus (aka Melody)
Putting the shoulder to the boulder and taking small steps each day to achieve freedom from the mundane.