I’m somewhat surprised in regards to the reaction of the Penn State students in the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno yesterday. I don’t remember that kind of reaction when Dave Bliss got fired from Baylor. And I wonder what would happen if Republican candidate Herman Cain threw in the towel over the alleged sexual harassment charges. Could you see middle-aged Republicans harkening back to their “freak” days and burning flags and occupying college president’s offices? Nah, it ain’t going to happen. So why the reaction for Jo Pa?
I could delve into the myopic fascination we have for cultural heroes, but I don’t think that’s the path I’m going to take. What really fascinates me is the blind eye people take towards individuals who “perform.” How many times have we (and “we” are all guilty) ignored behavior from an individual which was not appropriate? It could have been a plant supervisor verbally abusing an employee. A sales rep who padded expense reports or was willing to “take care” of his/her customer regardless of the appropriateness of the request. And I don’t even want to delve into the area of physical/sexual abuse of children and women — and how we decide to look the other way because the abuser may be someone “important.” Which gets us back to JoPa.
If in fact everything we’ve heard about the assistant coach and the graduate student’s reporting to Paterno is true, what would have you done? Would you have ignored the situation because you “needed” that person? Would you have reprimanded the individual? Would you have thrown a “friend” under the bus? Would you have reported it to the police?
At what point in time do we begin to realize that our community/work environment is best served when we are in harmony, and achieving the desired result at any cost also costs us our humanity. It’s not an easy path, and it may be one that Joe Paterno decided not to take – and he will now lose the recognition that he spent 60 years building.