If you haven't heard the two words, Penn State recently, you either live under a rock or by the grace of some social phenomenon have avoided one of the most shocking and scandalous stories this year. For those who need a recap, it's a story about one of the top college football universities, "overlooking" the fact that one of their coaches (Jerry Sandusky) was busted for having an inappropriate relationship with a young boy in the locker room. If you're not grossed out yet, you will be by the fact that Sandusky has now been arrested for 40 counts of sexual abuse involving multiple young boys.
That being said, this story also includes one of the most legendary, head football coaches (Joe Paterno) who played a passive role when news initially came out that one of his coaches violated a young boy. While he did inform his superior, that was ALL he did and Sandusky wasn't arrested or castrated (which would have been my suggestion). The point is that this opens up a conversation about legal obligation verses moral obligation. Paterno didn't do anything "legally" wrong per say; he passed the news on to his boss, but he also didn't do any more and allowed a predator to continue on his path for years before the story broke and victims courageously came forward.
I think too often we do what’s convenient, what’s safe and in Paterno’s attempt to protect the reputation of Penn State as well as his own, he overlooked a morally despicable act and allowed it to continue. He may not have committed the crime himself, but acting as a passive bystander makes him guilty in my eyes. Yet I am also fascinated to discover a new epiphany, insight or nugget of wisdom from any situation and that to me is the silver lining. If we as a culture can set a new standard of expectation for ourselves and for each other, to prevent something like this from ever happening again then we have found, though slight, a redeeming glimmer from a tragic situation.
So my challenge is this, how can we set a higher bar for morality? I’m not talking about religion here, I mean basic expectations of right and wrong. I was told once that “you become what you tolerate” and it always stuck with me. How can we expect people to not only do what is right, but to take the next step and get personally invested in the lives of others to protect them, honor them and fight for them even when it’s inconvenient? Because we are a country starving for nobility, for unwavering integrity and the future of our world depends on us demanding it.
My heart truly goes out to the victims of the Penn State scandal. A friend recently inquired, “Do you believe our world is getting more evil or more good?” I believe it’s both. I believe there is a perfect balance and as evil rears its ugly head in the form of a child pedophile, I also believe that phenomenally, altruistic and compassionate people rise to the occasion and help mend hearts, weave together broken souls and nourish the sick back to life. May we always have the courage to search for the silver lining, to keep faith in humanity even when given reason to doubt and hold each other to “the golden rule” standards. So please, live bright today because our world needs to shine a bit more at the moment.Images courtesy of Iblog126.com, Sandrarose.com