Sunday, November 13, 2011

On the McQueariness of our Morality

When he was 28 years old, Mike McQueary walked into the Penn State locker room one evening and saw a man raping a ten year old boy.

It wasn't just any man. It was McQueary's former coach, Jerry Sandusky.

And it wasn't just any victim; it was a naked, young boy.

Now McQueary is a big man. A former Penn State quarterback. A man who had played at Penn State during Sandusky's tenure as a Penn State football coach.

So on this night, McQueary sees his old coach (who had "retired" three years earlier, a year after a janitor reported seeing Sandusky performing oral sex on a child) naked in the showers raping a child. Here's what the grand jury report says about this incident:

"He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant [who, as we all now know, is McQueary] was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught."
(Click here for a detailed timeline and a link to the report.)

McQueary does not jump in to stop this pervert from abusing this boy. He does not call the police. He does not call campus security. McQueary heads out of the locker room post-haste.

In other words, he leaves the child alone with the rapist.

[I think about that boy - who is being abused in such a terrible way - and I think about that moment he sees a potential rescuer - and then watches as the red-haired rescuer vanishes, leaving the victim at the mercy of a monster.]

But apparently McQueary's instincts screamed for action - so he acted - he called his father. Who seems not to have suggested that McQueary go back into the locker room to get this defenseless child away from a very terrible man.

The next day, McQueary pays a visit to his other father, Joe Paterno, AKA JoePa, AKA McQueary's boss, the man who today is the winningest coach in Division 1 college football history.  JoePa waits another day and then goes to the authorities at Penn State and says that McQueary "had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

A week and a half go by, and the Penn State authorities call a meeting with McQueary, hear what he has to say, and then let the "distraught graduate assistant" know that "they would look into it."

A "couple of weeks later," McQueary was told that "Sandusky's keys to the locker room were taken away and that the incident had been reported to The Second Mile."

End of story.

Until a local high school acted to protect one of its students from Sandusky and got the authorities involved [authorities that would actually do something]. Sandusky is now charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors.

The Penn State scandal is a horror show, a nightmare, a story so awful in its facts that it's difficult to acknowledge the truth:

A slew of men knew one of their colleagues was a child molester and they did nothing about it. 

Instead, they found it morally imperative to protect their football program instead of protecting children from such a monster.

We can look at this incident in isolation. Or we can look at it lumped together with all the other scandals - sexual and otherwise - we've witnessed in the last decade or so. Enron. World Com. Mortgage-backed securities. Iraq's non-existent WMD. All those incidents where something truly awful was going - a morally perverted action, a corrupt business model that would topple not just a company, but the economy, a war declared to protect the nation from weapons that did not exist.

With each situation, there were McQuearies involved - innocent bystanders who had opportunities to speak up, to say no, to report something disgraceful to authorities. But in each instance, most of the bystanders stood silent, missing an opportunity to stop an immoral act from mushrooming into a full-blown catastrophe.

The truth is: McQueary is not alone in turning his back on a heinous crime. He's not alone in seeking to protect a respected, yet morally bankrupt, criminal. Unfortunately, he's in very good company.

That's what makes the McQueariness of our morality so terrible. McQueary shares this moral collapse with far too many people. A question to consider: are you one of them?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, the high school folks--at a school about 45 miles away from Penn State--also did not report it. Another boy being abused and his mom reported it after the high school doubted the boy's story and told them to think carefully about whether they really wanted to call the authorities

Main Street Muse said...

Wow. The reach of the PennState football program is overpowering.

I thought schools had to report suspected abuse?