"Even decades of professional achievement should not obscure dreadfully reckless and callous inaction that results in child sex crimes,"
David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group. Quoted in Reuters.
Life is a paradox. You win some. You lose some. Some that you win can actually feel like a loss. And when you do something great for one, it is actually harmful for another. And vice versa. Et cetera.
When one dies, the paradox that is one’s life becomes washed over and represented as a great and successful endeavor. We must, after all, have respect for the dead. Paradox dismissed. Contradictions terminated.
Joe Paterno was the winningest college football coach of all time. He did a lot for Penn State. In addition to an expanded stadium due to the football team’s success, his family donated millions of dollars to the university to support scholarships and building funds. Admirably, he had a reputation for making sure his players graduated. His influence on the young men he coached and on his colleagues and peers was far-reaching.
The story of how Joe Paterno's career ended is also far-reaching. His oversight of child sex crimes was more than an error, it was a miserable blunder. Its significance reaches farther than any good deed done. But there is something good in his wrong doing.
If Joe Paterno would not have been such a celebrated college football coach, the story of a man who knew boys were being raped but failed to call the police may have gone unnoticed. Now, it cannot be ignored. Paterno’s story brings to light the oversight of child sexual abuse not only at Penn State, but also in America.
I do not wish to disrespect the dead. I do not wish to disrespect Joe Paterno, the Paterno family, or any individual he may have helped along the way. But the controversy surrounding how he should be remembered is one that I welcome. Yes, we should talk about why he should be remembered for the good he has done. But Joe Paterno's story will positively impact more people if we talk about why he should be remembered for his moral crimes. Do not be afraid to face the fact that life is a paradox.