Monday, January 23, 2012

Pious men and dirty fiends

There are heroes and villains, and there are humans. We are not angels and demons, gods and monsters, zeroes and ones. We are fallen angels. We are brilliant beasts. We are between the gutter and the stars. Some of us are closer to the gutter, and others are closer to the stars.

So we are all part angel, part demon. We can imitate Grantland Rice's Great Scorer and tally up a person's good deeds and tally up a person's evil deeds and see which column adds up greater. Tallying up Joe Paterno will take a long time. He is not a hero, but the list of his good works goes on for pages. He is not a villain, but the magnitude of his bad deeds is so immense. How do we know what counts for more? I don't know. Maybe if you give me a hundred years of hindsight I can figure it out. Maybe the lesson is that a person's Great Score can't be calculated except by the Great Scorer. Maybe we don't need to know the final score.

I don't have any special insight that hasn't been said better elsewhere. The good people I know that attended Penn State have a problem. To many, the phrase "We Are Penn State" means, at least partially, "We Cover Up Child Rape." I'm just a particularly silly blogger, so I'm going to cite the best of my species as he cites First Thessalonians: "Test everything; hold fast to what is good."

Joe Paterno was not an angel. He was not a demon. I don't know if we should call him a good man or a bad man; all I can say from a distance is that he was a human. We should hold fast to the good he did. We must remember the tests he failed horrifically.

All of us, from Michigan to Pennsylvania to Maryland and beyond, can carry on the legacy of good works Paterno left. But we also have to make a promise. The community at PSU can promise "We are Penn State. We failed our children. We will not fail them again." All of us can promise "We will not fail our children." All of us can promise: we will not make the same mistake. We will not be silent. The most important thing wasn't Sandusky. The most important thing is to do everything we can to make sure there isn't another Sandusky.

Continue the good, put a stop to the bad, and every day we can make the world a little better.

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