Then two days ago riots erupted on Penn State's campus, the kind with pepper spray and armored police, because Joe Paterno was... fired. I think that means they wanted him to stay, but my eyes won't let me believe it.
OccupyWallSt: no violence. Penn State: violence. Americans are idiots.
Here's a good place to start: if Joe Paterno wasn't just a coach but a Catholic archbishop he'd be facing the International Criminal Court, and if he was a hedge fund trader someone would have killed him twice. This tells me that who he is matters way more to people than what he's done, which is almost always an alarm to flip over the couch and click off the safety.
Here's the generational problem, and what's significant about it isn't so much that it didn't happen but that no one has even thought to mention it: the reason Paterno had to be fired is because if he stayed, if he and the administration thought this was surmountable, then it would have put the football players in the extremely uncomfortable position of having to make the ethical decision themselves. "Do I want to keep playing for an organization that hides this kind of thing?" That's a heavy question to ask a 20 year old. These players are college kids, which means that what is at stake in making this choice is their entire futures, whereas what is at stake for Paterno and the school is their legacy. Does some defensive end have to consider throwing away his entire possible career just to make the choice that his elders should have made for him? The answer is yes, but it is way unfair of the rest of us to saddle him with it.
Notwithstanding that the future is demonstrably more valuable than the past, forgetting about that-- it is the responsibility of the older generation to take the bullet so that the younger generation has a chance. "I don't know who the hell spilled all these banana peels and ball bearings, " says Mr. Expanding Waistline And Declining Penile Tumescence, "but I got to clean it up so the kids don't trip over it."
This is why CEOs step down and generals resign, it isn't simply that "they are ultimately responsible" but that it is their job is to throw themselves on the grenade so that the area is cleared for everyone else, and if your CEO or general or father isn't willing to do that, then you don't actually have a CEO or general or father, you have a politician. Enjoy your democracy.
I'm somewhat hesitant to admit that the only thing I know about college football is college cheerleaders, and if you think that makes me less of a man I'll patiently listen to you concoct some explanation. But thanks to the Fourth Estate I now know who Paterno is, how revered he is, and what kind of person is doing the revering: this idiot on the top of a news van jumping in front of a cardboard cut out of Joe Paterno doing exactly what he did when he was told about the anal sex:
I'd like to draw your attention to three things, first, that wildman is standing on a van that is laying unnaturally sideways, second that there are seven hundred and fifty thousand people cheering him on, and third that he is white. That last bit is fortunate because it avoids misunderstanding when I say that he looks like a chimpanzee. And moves like one. But I'd also have to admit that later that night some poor chick from Delta Gamma was on the receiving end of that simian's semen, and she loved it.
Note that while he is probably just a guy standing on a news van, he has been co-opted by the media Semioti-Matic and transformed into a symbol of primitive sexuality and moral idiocy for which he has no recourse or rebuttal. He may in fact be an idiot with a big penis, all of my intuition tells me he is an idiot with a big penis, but who the hell knows? The moment he got put on TV he became an image slave. The media can do what they want with him, and they have.
But surely not all students at Penn State are so unsympathetic to the anal rape of children?
Ah, there they are, couldn't get bus fare to NYC, I guess. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, maybe this is the rum talking, but anyone else see heptuplets? So it's not just me. The media has now successfully changed the narrative from "somethingsomethingsomething anal rape" to a sports analogy of two opposing teams: Big Dick vs. Hippie Chick. Now it is so easy for me to pick a side, thank you Jesus, a side which has nothing to do with child molestation and everything to do with which of these two groups I hate more.
I would be drunk if I did not point out that just as the media symbol for the collapse of public order is looting-- i.e. the opposite of shopping, the media symbol for a collapse of civil society is the destruction of a media news van.
Show me some broken windows or broken heads and I will wait to be told who is to blame, but anyone who attacks the media is self-evidently a degenerate. The odd thing is that while the media are supposed to be impartial and invisible, the most active in terms of agenda, framing, and activity, is that very media. Their specific function at that riot is to make money, and they're surprised they became a target? If you start a riot, the very first thing you should flip over is the news van. Just don't then stand on it.
I had hoped that the younger generation was going to have better priorities than their highly narcissistic elders, i.e. Sandusky and Paterno and the excellent men and women of the Board 2002-2011, but it doesn't look good. It looks real bad, in fact. What I see is an up and coming generation unable to weigh societal goods, let alone moral equivalences, almost entirely because they have to play Nebraska today. Which scares me to believe that 2012-2035 will be a repeat of 1978-2001. I hope I'm wrong. If you see them bring back pantyhose, I wasn't.
And there's this, and again, I don't know much about football, but I do know a lot about human motivation: If Jerry Sandusky was indeed having anal sex with a 10 year old in the Penn State locker room showers, where anyone could stumble upon him, then it is impossible to imagine he hadn't already done it there before. He felt safe doing it. At Penn State. In the locker room.
If this was any other organization but college football, they would have detonated it faster than Enron. But since no one likes anyone that much, his not being immediately imprisoned requires some explanation other than "well, Sandusky saved me back in 'Nam, so I owed him", and all of them, every single one, is going to involve some version of the phrase "institutionalization of corruption." The only open question is how big you thing the word "institution" is, campus size or national size. When you wake up tomorrow to the unbelievable realization that the Zegna suits in Wall Street are the least corrupt of your generation, remember that the alarm had already been sounded if you had only paused to hear it. Flip over the couch and click off the safety. None of you are safe.