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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.