I suppose there is a way to rationalize the latest set of claims that former Penn State football god Joe Paterno knew that his assistant Jerry Sandusky was molesting children as far back as 40 years ago, but it will have to rest on this fairly flimsy structure.
“Well, the guy who did the report is working for the insurance company that’s trying to get out of paying out millions to cover the school's settlement costs.”
So yes, even sexually assaulting children has a price tag. But you knew that already.
By now, the Penn State nightmare is well known to one and all. Sandusky brutalized children while under the employment (and apparently protection) of the university and its most powerful person. He was convicted of multiple counts, and would have to die horribly in prison every day for the next 40 years for true biblical justice to truly have been done.
But Penn State, fighting for that precious insurance money, is having the scabs from the initial news torn off in a fight to make its insurance provider cover the cost of its settlement claims to victims. It cannot even be said at this point that the school is fighting for Paterno’s withering legacy, because that fight has already been fought, reached its level of stasis and ended.
In that, we mean that those who believe Paterno was a sunglassed saint will always believe so for reasons of family, football or school loyalty, and will, in the absence of evidence any stronger than “Well, I knew him and he was a great man,” “He meant a lot to this area,” or “He did a lot of good things too,” resort to ad hominem attacks to “prove” the righteousness of their cause. For them, preserving their “hero” is worth any cost, and shifting their opinions with a growing mountain of evidence is simply an impossibility.
But Sandusky’s victims, who had nothing to regain for the forced removal of their innocence and dignity, had only money to recoup, which the school provided in a burst of magnanimity that it believed it could write off by passing the cost onto the insurance people.
And the insurance people are fighting back with a vigor that has again reduced the university’s former and current hierarchy to a pack of jackals, put a new coat of filth on the school’s legacy as a place of honor, and in general reminded us once again that evil first ignored becomes emboldened, and once emboldened becomes the cost of doing business.
A cost which the school is now trying to pass on to someone else because it was never the noble righter of wrongs it wanted people to think it was, but a place where evil was aggressively ignored for a very long time, and where blame is something for others to absorb.
There is a cynicism in this that is genuinely breathtaking, and while the argument over Paterno may rage on elsewhere, here the only question is whether one can truly be penitent for crimes, misdemeanors and general acts of horror and shame done on its watch while suing to get its money back.
And the answer is no.
Penn State said it would own this, and it has not. It has divorced itself from Sandusky, maintained an uneasy relationship with the Paternos, and is now down to the crass business of saving money. The people behind this decision have chosen the standard appalling American method of dealing with corporate crime – ducking the bill – and it makes the school and the hundreds of people who work honestly and forthrightly for it feel the reflected ignominy.
And the lawyers fighting for the school – well, one supposes it is their “job,” but not all jobs are as ignoble as this. The legal argument “We feel awful, but not enough to meet the burden we said we would meet” is a fairly revolting one. If sleep comes easy to any of them, or even more so to their clients, justice is a fraud.
Then again, we’ve known that about this case for years now. The only succor we can take from it is that all those involved (save the victims) have comported themselves with staggering vileness, and cannot possibly ever get what they truly deserve.
The knowledge that they made an insurance company seem decent.