In case you missed Saturday's noon game between Penn State and Nebraska, Eloise is here to inform you that Penn State lost this week. And in more ways than one. I bet many of you were wondering if Old Eloise, Proud Pennsylvanian and Penn State Fan, would comment on the happenings that have come to light at our state's finest university. As keeper of The Lamp Post, it is my responsibility to deal with light, so I shall. Unfortunately, when Penn State came into the spotlight this week, it simultaneously cast a shadow across the university that will long leave its mark. Would Eloise speak or remain silent? I think many have remained silent far too long, so I'll take my five minutes in blogdom to share my thoughts, thank you.
Eloise is loyal. She loves a legend. She's a fan; a true lover of sports. And it seems, when her favorites fall, they fall hard. I can recall my disbelief when I watched OJ Simpson fleeing in a white bronco on a California highway. I remember being bewildered as to how and why Tiger Woods could take part in so much stealth infidelity, especially when he had such a beautiful wife waiting for him at home. My heart broke when I saw an image of Michael Phelps smoking dope. But this Penn State scandal is is like none other--it's epic because it involves the abuse of children.
It's taken the good part of this week for me to compose myself enough to try to garner some thoughts that make sense. Even now with a Bible on my left and a pony bottle on my right, my thoughts jump back and forth from disgust to disbelief. I am divided by my loyal nature, wanting to defend my favorite coach and all the good he has done, and the protective instincts of a mother/teacher/human being. I held on to the hope that in time as more information was brought into light, there would be some sort of rational explanation as to how this abuse went on for so long and went unpunished. But my only conclusion tonight is that this whole situation is irrational.
In fact, I believe irrational is the exact term I am looking for because I just looked it up on my handy little on-line dictionary. Here is the definition supplied by Farlex, the On Line Dictionary:
a. Not endowed with reason.
b. Affected by loss of usual or normal mental clarity; incoherent, as from shock.
c. Marked by a lack of accord with reason or sound judgment:
Penn State officials who had knowledge of any of the accounts outlined in the Grand Jury Report lacked sound judgment. Their actions were beyond reason. I am certain their mental clarity was effected from the shock of their knowledge. You know what they say about people in shock--they operate on auto pilot. I do believe there are some things that are incomprehensible to the normal human being. Atrocities so great that our minds almost cannot grasp them. Surely someone was mistaken. That couldn't have been what was witnessed. Not my child; this couldn't have happened to my child. Or how about this from a child's perspective: What is happening to me?
When people are faced with evils so great, I believe there is part of the brain that just shuts down. It buries horrific events as a coping mechanism. The great file cabinet called our mind shoves the horrors away in a deep place and moves on to other things just to survive. But somewhere, deep in those abused boys living in grown men's bodies, there was a stirring for justice that allowed for the reopening of one of those locked file cabinet drawers. Someone was finally brave enough to speak out, knowing full well that they would bring down an entire institution and its legendary icon along with it. My prayers go out to that brave soul tonight as well as the others who stepped forward to acknowledge that they too, had been harmed. Lord, give them strength at their time of greatest need.
This sin has always existed whether we care to admit that or not. The Devil Himself infects the minds of people and twists them up. Crimes of this magnitude against children have always been lurking, hiding in the darkness. But the world is changing. We know more. We communicate more often. We are linked together almost instantly. The recent events involving Penn State have shined a light on the worst in the nature of man, and we can no longer pretend that we can't see it. A floodlight has lit up State College for the whole world to see what has been going on in central Pennsylvania for the last decade. As I quote from the book of Corinthians, Chapter 4, He will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. Amen to that.
We can no longer turn a blind eye from what we have seen, or even from what our gut instincts are telling us. When a crime has been witnessed or rumored of, especially against a child, "reporting to the chain of command" does not apply. Here is a quick, easy number Eloise wants you to remember--9-1-1. It is the universal number for the police in this country. You can call it from anywhere you are and you'll find someone who can direct you to what to do next. It may be understandable that you may feel the need to run to Daddy to ask what to do, but as a 28 year old, I think you could punch in those three numbers all by yourself. The safety of that child was far more important than the institution, The Church of Football, as columnist Rick Reilly called it in a recent ESPN interview.
When we know better, we do better. After I finished reading The Help by Katherine Stockett, one of my new favorite books, I immediately called my mother and asked her what in the hell she was doing in 1962. "Graduating from high school," was her reply. I told her she was old enough and smart enough to know that there was no sound reason that people of color should be kept from using the toilets of white people. "Of course I knew that," she said. "I didn't know what was going on down south." Forgiven because it was the year 1962 B.I. Before Internet.
I didn't know. At first that sounded like a lame excuse to me. I stewed about it all day long. Stewed about it until I went to bed, that is. I looked over at my night stand and the pile of books that I keep there. These are some pictures of my nightstand tonight:
I keep a stack of books by my bedside and read myself to sleep whenever I feel the call to climb in bed. I read whatever I am in the mood for. Sarah's Key is the one I've been working on. It's about the Holocaust in France--yes France. I always have a book going about it because I feel a sense of personal responsibility to never allow myself to forget it happened, even though it took place many years before I was born. It makes me aware of the human potential of hate.
You will see that Raising the Spirited Child, is also on the top of my stack, for reasons I am sure you can understand if you are a faithful blog reader. And no, the giant Rolling Rock can is not a fresh one--it's my bank for my nickels and dimes. I like to separate my coins and this worked perfectly. To further explain, my LOST box contains the contents of all my favorite mementos, and that round thing is a geode cut crosswise because that is my favorite rock. I use it as a coaster.
I didn't know. A few years ago, I was reading a Reader's Digest article about a woman who lived through the uprising in Darfur. I was captivated by how she and 9 other people hid in a tiny bathroom, the kind with just a toilet and a pedestal sink, for SIX MONTHS, without ever coming out, to escape the people running through the streets with machetes in 2003. Where was I? I asked myself. Oh yes, going to play dates, and buying toys for my children, and this woman learned to sleep standing up. I didn't know. I felt like a heel that I didn't know this was going on, and vowed to never forget those who suffered while I was busy making mac-n-cheese.
I've lived a charmed life, lucky to be born in the country I live in to the parents who raised me. I had no control in that. But I can control my awareness of things. Eloise has become a Watch Dog of the World, so to speak. My sister on occasion has told me to tone it down because I am no fun to have at a party. I get that. Guilt has its place, but guilt has power. I am hoping and praying that those individuals who looked the other way, or felt like it wasn't their place to report these crimes to the police at the time they happened are motivated by their guilt to make a change--one for the better.
Eloise is a teacher and we are reminded every year, often several times a year, about the rules for keeping our children safe. Parents have trusted us not only to educate, but to guard and protect their children while they are in our care. I ask about every bruise. I make phone calls when I child is acting out of the ordinary. And if a teen shows up wearing a long black trench coat I have the right to check to make sure there is not a sawed off shotgun in the inside pocket. Columbine changed that for us as Penn State will change us again. We will rise above it, learn from it, and more children will be spared of these horrific crimes because of it.
The above video is of my son, Sam. Clad in his Penn State pajama bottoms and t-shirt, he was practicing his football moves. If you wonder why he is the way he is, watch the video a couple of times; you'll understand. You will hear his sister Ellen and partner in crime Emily, egging Sam on, Flip Camera in hand. If you doubt for one single second that my boy doesn't have the makings of a great linebacker then you are taking up residence on some other planet. That is Sam actually practicing his agility moves, then charging Ellen to practice his tackles at age four. Yes, he did actually bite her knee (I'll try to keep him out of the boxing ring). Lineman are known to be mean. And when someone asks me, Do you want him to play for Penn State someday? My answer will be ABSOLUTELY!
Penn State lost this weekend. They fell short of a win by three points. They also fell short in many other ways over the last decade as well. But don't be so quick to point the finger, because I assure you , this is no isolated incidence. This is happening in your neighborhood right now. Maybe in your back yard or in the house next door or at university of whose flag you fly off of your front porch on game day. The person in question may be your friendly neighbor, your teacher, or your clergy person. Penn State is in the spot light, but the world has cranked up the wattage on that beam. There is no doubt that it will cast shadows far beyond Happy Valley. Prepare yourselves now.
Yes, Penn State lost this weekend, but they will be gaining one hell of a lineman in 2024. I can't wait.
Still love you, Joe,