I’m going to be rather unpopular on Twitter, Facebook, and such for the next day or so because I will not be one of those people idiotically mourning the death of a rape enabler.
Hearing how some people are treating his ‘incident’ - like it was just a big dumb mistake like bribing kids to play for his school, or tacitly endorsing the sale of merchandise for tattoos - demonstrates that they are willing to overlook that Paterno’s involvement in the Sandusky case wasn’t just a momentary ethical lapse, but an extensive silence on the knowledge that someone closely tied into the Nittany Lions’ identity was committing profoundly heinous acts of violence against young boys. Acts of violence that will shadow these kids’ lives well into their adulthood, that will irreparably be a part of their identity forever.
Let’s just be clear. Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was raping a child. I don’t care that he in recent weeks pled the ‘I’m just an old jalopy from an era where raping a child was unheard of!” line, because Sandusky didn’t invent child rape, child rape is not some new-fangled Sony technology from the 19 - dickity - 80’s. Joe Paterno more likely than not had heard the pervasive rumors and allegations against Sandusky that had pursued him like the dogs of hell nipping at his heels. There was no way a man who was literally the most powerful person in Happy Valley did not know this.
Crowing that he “fulfilled his legal obligation” - like he was calling the county housing authority on a neighbor he suspected of renovating without proper licensing - ignores that the incident in question was a fundamentally immoral act of violence against another person, a child. For this, Paterno will always be remembered, as he should, because no amount of winning should be able to rinse away the stink of covering up child abuse.
While not a rapist himself, he ceded the responsibility his stature demanded and demurred to bureaucracy and the diffusion of responsibility. He knew there was a wolf among the sheep, and gave that wolf a collar and an “If Found, Please Call” tag. The legacy of Penn State football, by the inaction of himself and the entire chain of command from top to bottom, is now tainted indefinitely. The lives of several young men are forever ruined, and to the victims of sexual abuse who suffer in silence daily, Paterno has set forth the example that it is not always in the best interests of those with power to bring you justice. May the earth where he is buried be laid with salt.