Penn State: I’m Weighing In

Folks, this wouldn’t be a true blog if you didn’t get to experience the genuine opinion of this author. It’s this author’s opinions and personal touch that I believe you all keep coming back for, so I’m obliged to deliver. What better time to highlight my fantastic writing ability than with a national headline that seems to have enlivened debate in the four corners of our great country. I will attempt to do so using the tools I know best, including: Scientific American online journal, ESPN discussion and analysts from their absurd ’round the clock coverage, and tumblr – an online social blogging network primarily made up of 15 year old girls obsessed with a body image that only 1% of the world’s population can obtain.

And so it begins…

I’ll start off by saying I really didn’t have anything to say at first. I heard the news like everyone else, but my annoying co-worker Robert broke the story to me first so I immediately dismissed it in his face so I wouldn’t have to suffer through him talking to me. (Sidenote on Robert, he doesn’t just tell you something…he tells you the same thing about 20 times over the course of a day. Give him an inch and he’ll talk to you until you’ve walked a mile away from him) I’m going to assume you’ve all read or know about how the events took place, if not just google the damn thing. As more info comes out, I turn my attention to the interwebz for their expertise in the matter…

ffolkthepainaway:

these facebook statuses are getting HELLA out of control. sorry your beloved football coach is fired, that’s shitty, but you know what’s shittier? that children were raped, molested, and abused all at the hands of an administration that did nothing to stop it. where was your fucking riot when this story broke? where was your outrage when you found out that your tuition money was PAYING A PERSON THAT RAPES KIDS AND YOUR ADMINISTRATION COVERED IT UP.

paterno did not physically rape those children, he enabled it. he gave it his blessing. he let children be raped. i don’t care WHAT your moral compass looks like, that’s not a shitty decision, it’s not negligence, it’s fucking wrong. you lost a “symbol”, cool, these kids lost a fucking lifetime. this doesn’t hold a CANDLE to the shit they went through, all with paterno’s blessing.

it is disgusting and embarrassing that people place more value on their precious college football team than on the rights of children. have some fucking sympathy for the real victims.

Girl, you would’ve been better off keeping quiet because I can’t read that and not shake my head with a damning sense of unadulterated quarrel about to rain down on your ass. My reply:

“Let me preface this by giving a bit of positionality: I’m a white, college-educated male who went to a private school for four years at a considerably smaller-sized institution that has D1 sports (in one sport only). I was a member of the Advocates program for two of the four years and a mentor/buddy for kids in the community through a school-run program. I’ve also taken classes on Human Trafficking which dealt with the rights of children in a domestic and international scale. Having dealt with kids in a college community and having been a part of a school that values sports to a high degree I’m going to weigh-in.

First, fuck facebook. If I really wanted to know what Cindy Allen has been up to since highschool I’d fuckin’ call her. Do I gave a damn about Greg Smith’s opinion about the GOP debates? Trick question, he has no idea the first thing about politics which is why he’s obsessively ranting in the first place. But, when the sports world is shaken by the kind of scandal that involves the rape of young boys entrusted to the care of a seasoned coach at a program with such living legends as Joe Paterno, all of a sudden Jimbob (who goes to Penn State) has something to say that I want to hear. As he so eloquently put it:

You disgraced an entire university. you disgraced a long lasting tradition, you tarnished and ruined the childhood and lives of several innocent boys and to top it off you disgraced a living legend. You created such a fucked up situation and you put Penn State in the spotlight for such a terrible reason. You caused so many fucking problems for the school and for the students and the country. I hope you rot in prison and that you get your fair share of sodomizing.
I guess albeit my anger, (and to the wise words of a dear friend), that I agree these actions needed to be taken. Even though Joe Pa is a living legend, and I will always hold him in the highest regard, PENN STATE is bigger than him. PENN STATE is bigger than football. PENN STATE is an amazing tradition and an amazing university. It will live on forever. PENN STATE FOREVER.

My point is not to justify his (in)action, but simply to shed light on the validity of other people’s perspective – specifically of those people that value Penn State as an institution. It can be argued (by the likes of Louis Althusser, first and foremost) that the University is a placeholder for a number of apparatuses; mainly, that of an ideological and educational reinforcement of social formation. Each University carries individual qualities that set each one apart from one another, otherwise you wouldn’t have given a shit about what school you picked – they’re all the same. That being said, Penn State has a very particular history and tradition that creates a very specific ideological reality. To make a long, theory-laden description short I’ll simply say that at the forefront of this ideological understanding is one man: Jow Paterno.

He IS the embodiment of the school from when he started in 1966 to 2011. During his 46 seasons at Penn State the alumni alone that passed through those halls with the same sense of pride in their school would be enough to warrant a outrage for his dismissal on facebook of all places. Think of the players that trained and played for him in that time period that are now being facing a reality that terrible things happened while they were there. Think of the ethos that has taken 156 years to develop that became represented by ONE man. JoePa isn’t just some coach that turned a blind eye to a despicable act of abuse. He IS Penn State, as an institution and ideological collection of symbols, myths and traditions.

While I respect that the concern for the children is coming from the most genuine and obvious place of social concern there are perspectives that others would primarily react with that see beyond any individuals. Again, JoePa is not just one man, he IS Penn State. I’m not justifying one position over another but there needs to be caution when addressing this issue so as not to start a pissing match over what’s more important – a football coach or boys who were sodomized. Joe Pa is guilty of an ethically wrong decision, but are you the one to judge his actions? Especially having not grown up in a time when civil law and action were not as ‘advanced’ as they are now. As for the statement that it happened with “his blessing,

You guys have lived for this place. I’ve lived for people like you guys and girls. I’m just so happy to see that you feel so strongly about us and about our school. And as I said, I don’t know if you heard me or not, is, you know, the kids who were victims or whatever they want to say, I think we all ought to say a prayer for them. It’s a tough life when people do certain things to you. But anyway, you’ve been great. Everything’s great, all right.

Don’t turn Joe Paterno into a monster simply to fit an agenda of raising awareness for the sake of the victims and others who are sexually abused. Lay blame where you need to, but not on JoePa. He made a terrible decision, there’s no question, but for the sake of the University and for all those who share in the common identity of pride in their Nittany Lions, leave Joe Paterno alone.”

It’s long, I know. Bare with it a little longer. So what do I come across the next day in one of my daily site checks?

Why Penn State Students Rioted—They Deify Joe Paterno

The psychology of group membership helps explain why Penn State students can’t stop loving a man who ignored a child molestation scandal.

The article goes on to suggest:

According to psychological theory, every person has a social identity, which depends on being a member of various groups. “The social groups you belong to become a part of the very essence of who you feel you are,” explains psychologist Adam Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. These groups can include our families and circles of friends; the clubs, churches and schools we attend; our race, ethnicity and nationality; and the list goes on. The more strongly we identify with a particular group, the more vehemently we defend its members and ideals—a trait that experts think evolved along with early human society. Banding together and protecting one another allowed our ancestors to survive, and so to this day we are quick to cheer on our comrades and feel animosity toward rival groups. Many scientists think this in-group psychology explains prejudice, racism and even sports fandom.

Most of the Penn State students who rioted Wednesday night have social identities that are built around a lifelong allegiance to the school. If you attend Penn State, Galinsky explains, “Penn State is you, it’s part of you, it’s such an important thing.” And nothing symbolizes Penn State more than Joe Paterno, head football coach for 46 years. Many of these distraught young adults chose to attend the university because of their love for the Paterno’s team—not the other way around. And they rioted because “the person that symbolized the school they go to, that’s given the school stature, that’s made their own selves have meaning and purpose, has now been taken away from them in an aggressive and sullied way,” Galinsky explains.

“Our interpretation of facts are incredibly clouded by our own perspective,” he says. The students recognize Paterno’s mistakes, as evidenced by their many statements to the press, but being so involved in the Penn State community, they do not judge his mistakes as harshly as outsiders do.

Joe Paterno is both a deified leader and the living symbol of Penn State, inextricably bound up with the identity of the students who reacted so emotionally last night. In that light, it makes more sense that they took to the streets. Although the vandalism cannot be justified, if we recognize the root of the students’ feelings it may help us reconcile their loyalty to Paterno—inconceivable to many outside the Penn State community—with the disturbing story of child molestation that has been revealed over the last several days. “Don’t judge them harshly,” Galinsky says. “If you were a member of that community with that identity, you would have had the same reaction.”

My final thoughts on JoePa: He is a man who made a mistake much like many people in this world have done. His (in)action is morally and ethically questionable but I’m not sure many more of you would’ve done something different if you were in his shoes. He’s a man who was born in 1926, a time you really have no idea about unless you yourself were a part of. Internet bloggers complain about how teens don’t understand the 90’s kids or a culture before the 90s, a time before computers and cell phones when Are You Afraid of the Dark was scary as shit. JoePa was born in the motherfucking 20’s, they didn’t have half the shit they have today. That man wakes up every morning and says, “Shit, good thing we found out about Penicillin 2 years after I was born and started that whole antibitoics thing.”

And you’re going to tell me JoePa represents rape culture…

But really, the issue is not just that internet folk are generally young and removed from the social practices of days gone by, it’s the lack of understanding on ALL parts. Those rioters are not going to understand their wrongs just as the internet bandwagon is too pretentious to step down off their pedestal and accept the other side. My $0.02 is that this whole goddamned mess is every bit as sinister as the media would have you believe. A man took advantage of young boys for his sexual pleasure. That man deserves the worst possible punishment. All those who were directly responsibly for his freedom after knowing about the incident deserve the harshest possible punishment for the lack of upholding a basic social responsibility. Joe Paterno will likely live out his final days with the kind of guilt and regret that only an immortal feels as they slowly fall off their ceremonious altar. Penn State will rebound, over time, and the alumni who give the institution its character will need to be adamant in their support and steadfast in their connection with one another.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you procrastinate writing a senior thesis while still claiming productivity. BOOM!

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About twogirlsonestone

I'm a graduate of Saint Lawrence University where I got my degree in Global Studies major with a focus on European and Islamic Studies. I'm particularly interested in Muslim immigration in Europe. I use this blog when I'm bored or if I find a lot something interesting. I spend an inordinate amount of time online and thought it's time to post a collection of my favorites for friends to view.
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