Remember this, because it’s maybe the most important thing you can know to know what the world is really like: We protect our own.
Any family, any organization, any group of people you can make out of any combination of anybody anywhere, is our own. We draw circles and we work inside them, and it’s not always for nefarious reasons. We do this because the world’s too big. We have to bite it off in chunks, to make any impact at all. We pick what’s ours and we do our best with it.
But when you entrench like that, when you draw the circle too tight, when you create a power structure that turns protection into isolation, when you admit no one who’s not already admitted, your response to a problem is to make the circle smaller, and protecting your own means something much darker.
The messages indicate former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former university officials knew they had a problem with Sandusky after a 2001 shower incident, but apparently first decided to handle it using a “humane” approach before contacting outside authorities whose job it is to investigate suspected abuse.
“This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,’ wrote Gary Schultz, then vice president at the university.
More humane. For whom? The poor, put-upon child rapist? Pardon me if I give him limited access to my sympathies. I wrote up there about having to triage. I’m not immune.
It gets worse:
“The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” Spanier purportedly writes.
Because that bolded bit is the heart of it. Us. Spanier writes that the only downside for us is a public relations problem. Forget the monstrousness of that on its face, the very ordinary “bad headlines are on par with being raped as a teenager by your fucking coach” and just think about us. That’s where this went wrong. That’s how it all went off the rails.
Us isn’t the children in the program Sandusky was running, the poor and vulnerable children whose parents trusted these great legendary men not to turn them wrong.Us isn’t the victims, it isn’t their families, it isn’t even sick, sick Jerry Sandusky, who would have received more mercy were he a rabid dog menacing people on Main Street.Us isn’t any of those people. Look where Spanier’s drawn the circle. Look who’s inside it. Look who’s not.
Curley indicates he no longer wants to contact child welfare authorities just yet. He refers to a conversation the day before with Paterno. It’s not known what Paterno may have said to Curley.
Curley writes: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”
The athletic director apparently preferred to keep the situation an internal affair and talk things over with Sandusky instead of notifying the state’s child welfare agency to investigate Sandusky’s suspicious activity.
“I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved,” Curley allegedly continues.
The person involved. An internal affair. Think about the Catholic Church scandals, the people they express concern for and how they do it. Lip service to the victims, sure, in press conferences, but under their skins, in depositions and private conversations, their worry is for their own: The priests, the bishops, the rich donors who fund their operations. And they believe that’s all internal, and they have no need to involve outsiders. So too with this.
What is internal? Who is the person involved? You aren’t the law. You’re a person who draws a circle, who protects his own, and the law stands outside that, draws the circle around everybody. That’s the point. That’s why we have the law, so that the circle widens, and we can protect as many people as we have people at all. The person involved is the victim. The internal affair is his.
He’s part of that us, and there is no upside for him, or any of the others, once Spanier and Paterno and the others said let’s keep this inside our circle, and keep everybody else out.