Donal's picture

    Closing Ranks

    I used to work in Central Pennsylvania — just PA to anyone from there. I was there long enough to realize that Penn State was both a revered institution and an 800 lb gorilla. I suppose that's true of other schools, but I have lots of family and friends who attended or worked for PSU, and still do. 

    Loyalty to Penn State and faith in JoePa continues to be very strong. On Saturday, in a stealthy 6 AM maneuver, PSU removed the Paterno sculpture, calling it a "distraction." The faithful are appalled. Even my liberal, union brother-in-law is resentful, claiming that the Freeh report is not the last word in the investigation.

    America is often called a melting pot, but people have allegiances to groups and institutions that rival any sort of national patriotism.

    On Democracy Now, Chris Hayes compared the closing ranks of PSU officials to the closing ranks of Vatican officials. Hayes is editor-at-large of The Nation, has a show on MSNBC and has written a book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy.

    CHRIS HAYES: What’s so remarkable about the details that have come out from Penn State, first of all, is how much it looks like what happened in the Catholic Church ... a victim of priest abuse in Belgium, his uncle happens to be the bishop, and he is sitting in the room with his uncle who’s the bishop and the priest who abused him, in which his uncle, the bishop, is prevailing upon him not to press charges on his abuser, because the abuser is about to retire. ... And the abuse victim says to the bishop, "Why do you feel sorry for him and not me?" And that, to me, is the moral core of the transgression here, right? It is, the social distance had grown up to be so massive — in some ways, it was baked into the cake in the church hierarchy — between the bishops and the priests, who they considered their club, and the parishioners.

    And what we see in Penn State is an identical situation. The coaches and the athletic director and the hierarchy of the university are on the inside and are all looking out for each other, as opposed to looking out for the people that they have a duty to look out for, which are the children who are coming into contact, sometimes being abused on the property of Penn State. It’s that kind of elite self-protection that produces crisis and corruption and scandal.

    Hayes goes on to describe the club including Wall Street, Bankers, the Fed, and the Senate, drawing inevitable objections from their lackeys in the media.

    AMY GOODMAN: [David Brooks] wrote a piece called "Why Our Elites Stink," in which he took issue with your book. He wrote, quote, "I’d say today’s meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined. They raise their kids in organized families. They spend enormous amounts of money and time on enrichment. They work much longer hours than people down the income scale, driving their kids to piano lessons and then taking part in conference calls from the waiting room." ...

    CHRIS HAYES: Well, there’s a whole variety of things in that. I mean, in terms of his assertion that they don’t get there because — they get there because of being hard-working and disciplined, as opposed to being corrupt, I mean, you can be both. In fact, there’s a lot of hard-working, disciplined, totally corrupt folks on Wall Street, for instance, and I don’t think we have to choose between the two.

    "You can be both." My stepkids grandfather was a friend of Joe Paterno, served on boards with him and told me often that Paterno was a fine man. I don't think he was blind. You can be honest, upright and admirable in most aspects of your life and career, but fail in the harder tests - which, and it is a shame, is how I see Paterno. He demanded the best of his players, but not of his institution, or himself. Penn State Football now faces the NCAA death penalty, but even without it, good high school players are choosing to go elsewhere. Paterno should have demanded better of PSU. 

    It isn't just Penn State, or the Vatican, or Wall Street. Most recently we have the Aurora mass murder, with members of the NRA, another 800 lb gorilla, closing ranks against any suggestion that ownership of any sort of gun should be regulated in any way, shape or form. We had the killing of Trayvon Martin, with many white people closing ranks against the suggestion that a young black man didn't do something to deserve being shot to death. We have climate change and energy depletion, with elite think tanks and industry flacks closing ranks to assure us that both are empty threats, easily solved by technological advances.

    And we have otherwise liberal-leaning US citizens closing ranks against any suggestion that executive-ordered predator drone strikes might be too indiscriminate a weapon to be wielded by what is supposed to be the world's beacon of due process and democracy.

    All of us should demand more of our institutions, and ourselves.



    I would separate the 6 am statue removal from the earlier "closing ranks" that Penn State did.

    They enabled Paterno for many, many years, and Paterno enabled a child rapist. Stepping away from Paterno is breaking ranks.

    But they had a riot on campus, with a TV van overturned by angry students, when they took the long-overdue step of firing Paterno. In their shoes, I would also remove the statue as discreetly as I could, with the minimum opportunity for anyone to make trouble.

    I think the statue had to go, as did the coach, but does timing things so no one is around to object prevent, or simply defer trouble?

    I would like to hear from those among Sandusky's youth groups that he did not molest who will nevertheless have to live with the suspicion that he might have regardless of how many times they deny it.  That includes family, possibly their own children.  Forever experiencing a Kafkaesque trial by their peers.

    And what about those who were molested but would have preferred a less public method of stopping Sandusky for the same reasons?

    When should the zeal to punish the guilty be tempered to avoid punishing the innocent?

    Tough moral question.  Hope I never have to decide.


    Curl-Burke founder Rick Curl faces hearing on former swimmer’s account of underage sexual relationship in 1980s

    Currin said the abuse started when she was 13 with a kiss on the lips in front of a water fountain in the hallways of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, where the swim club leased the pool. That night, she said, Curl called her at her home. She recalled stretching the cord of the phone into the dining room for privacy. Curl told her, she said, he was “on cloud nine.”

    “That,” she said, “was the beginning.”

    Currin said she would sneak with Curl into an office at Georgetown Prep after practices, where kissing turned into oral sex and sexual intercourse in a bathroom inside the office. She said Curl told her she was “special” and, on a number of occasions: “Don’t worry, if we get caught, I’ll take half of the blame.”

    “By the time I was 14, in my little 14-year-old brain, it was very much a love affair,” she said. “I loved him. ... Any problem I had, he would fix it.”

    She said sexual intercourse occurred on nearly every road trip, including in the stairwell of a hotel shortly after Curl got married; at his house when he would put in pornographic movies; and even at her parents’ house while they were home. Because she lived in Ashton, 30 minutes away from Georgetown Prep, Curl occasionally would offer to drive her to early morning practices, she said, and her unsuspecting parents offered him a bedroom to save him the drive.

    The Worst Kept Secret in Washington

    This is all plenty scandalous and distasteful, but that’s not the worst of it. Here’s the part to make you gag: EVERYONE ALREADY KNEW. The worst part about this breaking news is that it’s not news at all – not to the swimmers and coaches and parents who grew up swimming in this area. This has been an open secret for ages. That headline above? That’s a line from an email sent from one former swimmer to another, who both swam in Northern Virginia in the late 80′s.

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