Monday, November 14, 2011

Penn State Reflections (4): In the Depths of the Soul

The Penn State tragedy that exploded last week really kicked me into a passionate week of writing. This is the fourth post (plus yesterday's reflection on the Gospel) that I have worked on. The words just keep on coming, bubbling out of anger and sadness, fear and grief. I sat glued to the TV news each evening as they reported from State College, a town I knew growing up. They talked about Happy Valley and Beaver Stadium. Places I knew intimately have been brought into the headlines of a whole world.

Then I was reading another article and another location jumped off the computer screen. Victim 1 (as the first reporting victim was referred to in the Grand Jury report) was a student at a "Clinton County" school. It was no longer the 50 mile trip to State College from my home. Now it was across Pine Creek, in my stomping ground. There are only 37,000 people in the whole county and only three public school districts, including my home district shared with neighboring Lycoming County in the east where I grew up.

It was like having a friend identified as the victim. The victims involved were probably not people I knew, but I knew the land and the territory. I have come to know that land and territory, geography, is very much part of who we are. Reading Clinton County in the report was home, personal.

It was no longer about the great university having its name dragged into the dirt, or an iconic figure like Joe Paterno being pulled down. Now it was the every day person, the person on the street. And worse, it was the powerless and lost being pushed even further away by a man who sought to use power and position to do unthinkable things to children.

The Lock Haven Express reported on their own investigations that may even implicate the school district in what looks more and more like a cover-up:

[S]ources said when the family questioned that outcome, they were told by a Keystone administrator that Sandusky was a "great man" and they should go home and think about it before taking further action.

Don't believe for a second that any of this was about sex. This is NOT A SEX SCANDAL. Rape is not about sex- it is about power. It is a weapon used by conquering armies exerting hegemony and power. It is used by men to subjugate others to their own desires, no, to use others as pawns for their own desires. Rape of a child is the most cowardly act of power. Victim 1 said to his mother that you couldn't "say no to Jerry." It is the most degrading way to put someone else in their place. It is violence against the life and soul of the person being raped. It is the theft of childhood and personhood of the victim.

I find that I am angered at some great depths by this because it has hit so close to home by men and institutions who have attempted to be moral and honest and filled with integrity. These great awful events tear at the fabric of who we are. That is why it has been the top of the news. It is finally and most destructively attempted murder of the life spirit, the soul of hope.

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