Joe Paterno, Pat Lynch, and Protesting for Injustice

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I might be addressing old news here, but I want to comment on the Joe Paterno “controversy.” Let me start by acknowledging my use of quotes as intentional. There should be no controversy: Joe Paterno was in a position of authority and chose not to act. As far as I’m concerned, Paterno is as guilty as the man he chose to protect.

I’m concerned about the national reaction to Penn State’s dismissal of coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. You see, former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raped eight boys over 15 years. Why were Paterno and Spanier fired? Because they knew everything and chose not to act. They continued to support, endorse, and protect Sandusky.

The aftermath of this double ouster was messy, too. The Penn State University community protested. They rioted. They flipped cars, threw rocks, set fire to stuff. They joined together and appropriated the skin-tingle inspiring chant of Marshall University in an effort to garner solidarity. They chanted “We Are Penn!”

So where’s the beef?

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The Penn State community is rallying on the wrong side. These students were flipping cars and flipping out because the coach, the third winningest coach in college football history (I don’t care), was fired. Are you freaking kidding me?

Reese Dixon, over at FMH, says it best:

 It takes so little to stop abuse, and yet.

And yet we see students rioting because a man who protected a child rapist was fired.

We see men who were in a position of authority over young boys enable abuse in exchange for money, prestige, and a winning record.

We see sports commentators mourning the tarnishing of a legacy instead of worried about the lives of the victims he failed to protect.

Where are the outraged students who are rioting for the victims? I know you’re out there, but why aren’t there more of you? Where are the reporters who are covering the response of pissed off students, faculty, football players who are throwing their weight behind victims’ rights? If this is what it means to be “We Are Penn!” then you should be ashamed. This is not a tragedy against a football program from which you should rebuild, like the college community from whom you stole the sentiment. This was the opportunity for you to stand for and with the victims, but like your beloved JoePa, you chose not to act. Shame on you.

Like Eve Ensler, I’m over it.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it.

I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters — film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes — while the lives of the women [and children] they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you?

You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.

I’m over the blatant passivity that stands in the way of choosing the right. I’m over protecting the reputation of the powerful at the expense of protecting the lives of the vulnerable. It pisses me off and I’m over it.

Speaking of protecting the reputation of the powerful, and in the spirit of Joe Paterno, let us also acknowledge a Wyoming school district’s bad decision. Football coach and high school guidance counselor Pat Lynch was recently “dismissed” as the football coach, but retained as a high school guidance counselor, after distributing a form letter to his players. In this letter, Lynch attempts to motivate his students to not be “pussies, wimps, little bitches, or queers.” He makes it clear that he expects his students to not behave in the manner of someone with “woman like hormones.”

What?

This alone warrants Penn State-like rioting. I acknowledge that we live in a world that tells boys and men that it is not okay to have emotions, to be hurt, or to feel anything except up a woman’s skirt. And it is not okay. This social norm is dangerous and has tremendously dangerous consequences.

Oh, but it gets better. Let’s discuss:

Despite some pushback from the community for the decision to keep Lynch employed at the school, the board is standing behind Lynch and their decision.

“Despite some pushback from the community.” Pushback? Where is the rioting? Where is the mob demanding his termination? Some school districts are criminalizing bullying among students, and this educator is protected by the same people who should be protecting students!

Johnson County Superintendent Rod Kessler defended his decision to allow Lynch to continue bullying working with children. He says, “we’re going to work on building his reputation back to where it needs to be.” What about the students on his team, or the students for whom he is responsible in the school? Why is his reputation more important than the safety of students? He is supposed to be the frontline advocate for all of his students regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, emotional proclivity, weakness, or strength. Why should a female student trust this man if he harbors sexist ideologies? How can a student struggling with his or her sexual identity feel comfortable confiding in him when he endorses homophobia?

These two men, Pat Lynch and Joe Paterno, are educators. They are role models. They live in and serve communities that trust them to teach and protect children. Vulnerable, impressionable, generally defenseless children. Both men failed miserably and instead of making an example of their actions as what not to do, their communities are supporting them. Apathy and inaction is a disgusting endorsement of this destructive behavior, but both school communities, Penn State and Johnson County, are actively rioting for and protecting these men.

These two incidents are not isolated. We live in a society that is skilled at crafting the message that bullying is okay, homophobia is endorsed, sexism is justified, and the people responsible have no consequences.

Here’s the bottom line: Joe Paterno and Pat Lynch, you did awful things to people who trusted you. You put them in danger, you let them down and you should be ashamed of yourselves. But you alone are not responsible. Administrators, students, and communities rallying around these men, you are just as guilty. You are rooting for the wrong team. And what about the rest of us? Are we off the hook? When we laugh at sexist jokes, remain silent when we witness bullying, when we choose not to act, we tell the people in our lives that we’re okay with this.

Some people think I’m uptight because I call them out when they make sexist jokes. They say I don’t have a sense of humor. This isn’t about having a sense of humor. I think Jon Stewart is hilarious. This is about not letting the wrong people define the acceptability of these behaviors.

In response to Lynch’s bigoted behavior, Kessler said, “Anytime your (sic) in a small community and something happens like that, ya know, it probably affects all of us. It affects me. I’m embarrassed by it.”

First of all, Kessler, it’s “you’re.” Second of all, you should be embarrassed, but when something “like that” happens, it affects the children more than it does you. Do something about it. Unlike the children you are supposed to be protecting, you actually have the power to.

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One response »

  1. and it gets worse…
    Judge Leslie Dutchcot set bail for this man at $100,000.00 UNSECURED, meaning he was free to go and will only have to pay his bail if he doesn’t show up for court.
    Can you say “Flight Risk”?
    Turns out Judge Leslie Dutchcot is a volunteer at his foundation “Second Mile” that is being accused of pimping out these abused children to “rich donors”.

    I pray for these victims, for this man and for all the people how knew this was going on and did little to nothing to stop it. May the victims find peace and recovery, may they grow to remember the pain that was caused to them and see that they do not have to be victims any longer, may they get the help they need so to not allow themselves to become an abuser, but find the strength to help others. May these abusers get the help they so desperately need to stop this abuse, and for the people who knew and did little to stop this I pray they realize they’re errors and find a way to help these abuser recover.

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