If Mike McQueary had seen a child being raped in a boardroom or a storeroom, he wouldn’t have been any more likely to have stopped it, or to have called the cops, than he was as a graduate assistant football coach at Penn State. With unemployment edging toward double digits, and only about 10 percent of the workforce unionized, every American who works for a major company knows the penalty for exercising his personal freedom, or his personal morality, at the expense of “the company.” Independent thought is discouraged. Independent action is usually crushed. Nobody wants to damage the brand. Your supervisor might find out, and his primary loyalty is to the company. Which is why he got promoted to be your supervisor in the first place.
It is not a failure of our institutions so much as it is a window into what they have become — soulless, profit-driven monsters, Darwinian predators with precious little humanity left in them. Penn State is only the most recent example. Too much of this country is too big to fail.
Further, the institutions of college athletics exist primarily as unreality fueled by deceit. The unreality is that universities should be in the business of providing large spectacles of mass entertainment. The fundamental absurdity of that notion requires the promulgation of the various deceits necessary to carry it out. The “student-athlete,” just to name one. “Amateurism,” just to name another. Of course, people involved in Penn State football allegedly deceived people when it became plain that children had been raped within the program’s facilities by one of the program’s employees. It was simply one more lie to maintain the preposterously lucrative unreality of college athletics. And to think, the players at Ohio State became pariahs because of tattoos and memorabilia sales.
By an order of magnitude, the Penn State child-raping scandal is miles beyond anything that ever happened with the Ohio State football team over the past five years, miles beyond anything that happened with the SMU football team in the 1980s, and miles beyond anything that happened with the point-shaving scandals in college basketball. It is not a failure of our institutions so much as it is a window into what they have become — soulless, profit-driven monsters, Darwinian predators with precious little humanity left in them. Penn State is only the most recent example. Too much of this country is too big to fail.
On July 20, Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, rose before the Dail Eireann and excoriated the Vatican and the institutional Roman Catholic Church for the horrors inflicted on generations of Irish children, horrors that they both committed and condoned. This was an act of considerable political courage for Kenny. The influence of the Church had been a deadweight on Irish politics and the secular government since the country first gained its freedom in the 1920s.
Nevertheless, Kenny said:
“Thankfully … this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland, 2011. A Republic of laws … of rights and responsibilities … of proper civic order … where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular kind of ‘morality’ will no longer be tolerated or ignored … as taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear that, when it comes to the protection of the children of this state, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself cannot, and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this Republic.”
He did not drop to his knees. He did not ask for a moment of silence. He did not seek “closure” but, rather, he demanded the hard and bitter truth of it, and he demanded it from men steeped in deceit from their purple carpet slippers to their red beanies. Enda Kenny did not look to bind up wounds before they could be cleansed. And that is the only way to talk about what happens after the raping of children.