Penn State – False Gods, Anger & Morality

Penn State – false Gods, anger & morality

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the three lessons from the scandal of sexual abuse that has rocked Penn State University.

First a quick update:

“How to survive The Holidays & Holiday Stress”
If you want to enjoy the Holidays and have fun and avoid Holiday stress and arguments, read my two articles – “Easing Holiday Stress” and “Avoiding Holiday Arguments”.

“Battle of the sexes: Why Herman Cain will ultimately lose”
Is Herman Cain, guilty of the allegations and accusations that he groped and sexually harassed women? The answer may now be irrelevant because he has unknowingly made a major strategic error. Read my insights here.

“Guru to be sentenced”
Self-help Guru and teacher from The Secret, James Arthur Ray will be sentenced this week for the 3 deaths in his sweat lodge. Listen to the revealing interview about Gurus, cults and brainwashing and watch the  TV interview I gave here.

Now, let’s talk about the three lessons we can learn from the scandal of sexual abuse that has rocked Pennsylvania State University.

For people outside the US: Penn State University, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing children – assaulting eight boys over 15 years (1994 – 2009) and school administrators have been criticized for knowing about the allegations but doing nothing. Sandusky has pleaded not guilty and Penn State legendary football coach Joe Paterno (the winningest coach in Division I college football) and University President Graham B. Spanier have been fired.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the charity organization “The Second Mile” Jack Raykovitz has resigned in response to reports that Sandusky had abused boys he met through the charity. Jerry Sandusky formed “The Second Mile” in 1997 as a group foster home for troubled boys.

The scandal will widen further as more victims come out and as more information is revealed about people across the board (within Penn State, law enforcement and possibly even the charity Second Mile) who either took no action or tried to protect or cover-up Sandusky and the alleged sexual abuse. And therein lays the similarities between the Penn State scandal and the pedophilia that was exposed within the Catholic Church when it was revealed that for years bishops throughout the US had simply transferred guilty priests from one church to another and never alerted parents or police.

There are three key lessons to be gleaned from the Penn State sexual abuse scandal as well as the sexual abuse that occurred within the Catholic Church.

1. Stop creating false Gods
Whom do we idolize and why? It is easy to lose our individual identity and believe that all of our significance, value and self-worth come from the institution or tribe to which we belong – a church, a college, a corporation, a group, organization or a sport. It is easy for us to idolize, create a hero or worship a person whom we believe has achieved great things. But when we idolize a person rather than admire his/her achievements, we lose our power, we create a myth and we end in denial of truth and reality. Even the students of Penn State who rioted en masse could not accept that possibly their hero Joe Paterno, the man with most wins in college football history could have failed to have done more to protect those children who were raped and sodomized – whose lives were ruined and stolen.

We need to beware of the myth and false significance to which we give any group. No institution, no tribe, no individual and no myth that we attach to any of them, is more significant than the need and duty to protect helpless children. False Gods lead to cults. Some critics claim the atmosphere at Penn was cult-like. (Read “The Cult of Penn State” ).

2. Use courage and anger to protect victims
In 2000, James Calhoun, a janitor at Penn State witnessed Jerry Sandusky in the showers with a young boy, pinned up against the wall, performing oral sex on the boy. Calhoun told other janitorial staff but never made a report.

But why didn’t James Calhoun act in the moment to stop the sexual abuse and protect the child?

Why didn’t he call police that same day?

On March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a Penn State graduate assistant (currently wide receivers coach) saw a naked boy age 10, in the showers of the same building, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. McQueary told his father immediately, and then Joe Paterno the next day.

But again, why didn’t Mike McQueary act in the moment to stop the rape and protect the child?

Why didn’t he call police that same day?

Why did James Calhoun and Mike Mcqueary not literally jump in and stop Sandusky from sexually abusing and molesting those children?

Fear and a lack of intestinal fortitude.

We have become programmed to mind our own business, to fear someone who is in a position of power, to not trust ourselves, and to ignore what is right and wrong. Possibly, we have lost the compass for right and wrong. We have become more obsessed with materialism and consumerism than we have with morality; lost our sense of personal responsibility and accountability while being focused on our own selfish needs rather than helping, giving and protecting. We have sought out our own personal comfort over doing what is right.

In this case, anger was needed to muster the courage to physically step in and use force to stop the abuse and rape. But the anger was missing because it was replaced by personal fear and self-preservation.

And that leads us to the third lesson.

3. Legal obligation versus moral obligation: Do what is right
Mike McQueary says he told his father about seeing Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers. Why didn’t Mcqueary’s father tell him to call the police immediately or did he simply tell him to report it to Joe Paterno the next day, which is what McQueary did?

And when Joe Paterno was informed, he told his superiors but why didn’t he, too, call the police? Jerry Sandusky was Joe Paterno’s most trusted assistant for the majority of three decades. What did Paterno really know and why did he fail to act?

In most cases, people seem to choose self-preservation over doing the right thing.

Were the janitor Calhoun, the grad assistant McQueary and his father simply trying to not rock the boat – to ensure that they could continue to hold onto their jobs and lifestyle? Was Joe Paterno focused on preserving and ensuring the wins of the college football team, his winning record and the 53 million-dollar profit for Penn State from last year’s football season?

In all three cases, Calhoun, McQueary and Paterno did what was expected of them by law – they legally reported it to their superiors. But morally, they failed to take more action to protect helpless children, action that anyone could have taken – to call the police, to make noise, to confront Sandusky.

Every day we need to stop and ask “Am I doing the right thing?” And when we see someone doing the wrong thing and hurting someone or committing an injustice, we need to call on anger to move us to do the right thing and stop the injustice – whether it is a mother or father being abusive to a child in a supermarket or a woman being abused at a bus stop. We need the constant courage to question what is happening around us and to be willing to question and challenge authoritarianism – even if it is an institution and icon such as Penn State or the Catholic Church.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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