Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Jolt to Joe, Heard Round the World

There are four of us, thus the name. But of the four, I’m the sports freak. And because I watch and follow football, particularly college football, I’ve been dismayed at the news as it has come out of Penn State regarding an alleged pedophile. There are so many angles to this story – did he, didn’t he, what is alleged, who knew what, what is your duty by law, what is your moral duty – but as the mother of two teenage boys, I find two very simple answers – NEVER HURT A CHILD, and REPORT IT IF YOU SEE IT.

Our sons have been active in the following: Boy Scouts, school band, marching band, tee ball, cross country, church youth group, field trips, and class trips. Every single one of these has had male chaperones. Every single one of these has had “opportunities.” Last year I went through three background checks in the space of a month. One for church so I could teach Sunday School and chaperone, one for school so I could ride the activity bus and go on overnight field trips, and one for Boy Scouts since I am on the parents’ council and help with the scout board of reviews. I passed each check with flying colors since speeding tickets were not the issue. And the reality is that there are pedophiles out there who would pass the same background checks, no problem—because they haven’t been caught yet.

I believe the reason this story has resonated so deeply with so many of us is it hits hard at one of our deepest fears – the inability to protect our children. We can institute background checks, and put measures in place such as the Boy Scouts requirement that I always have another leader present and never be left alone with any Scout other than my own son, and still we fail. The Penn State story illustrates that we can fail miserably, and lives have been irrevocably ruined as a result.

So much of what is written has focused on Penn State, its coaches and administrators. They are an easier target in some ways than the pedophile himself, and his “charity.” We often don’t know how to address evil, but we love to address stupidity, and while the coaches and administrators may be intelligent, their actions and inaction belied that intelligence.

I would expect any adult who saw something that made them question how someone was acting toward any child to have the, yes, I AM going to say it, the BALLS to stand up and say something. I don’t really care why or where your legal obligation falls.

Why can’t we recognize right and wrong anymore and just stand up for it? What has happened to make us so incapable? Have we become so afraid of each other that we walk away rather than become involved? How can we prevent this in the future?

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