The student riots in Happy Valley following the firing of Joe Paterno must give us pause. To be sure, the media love to blow these things out of proportion to help their ratings, and it would be a mistake to think the entire campus of thousands of students is in an uproar at the firing of their favorite. So let’s say there are a few dozen at the heart of this sad event with a few hundred curious hangers-on who just want to see what’s going on — and maybe get their face on TV. Most of the students, we must assume, are attending classes, studying, or planning the next party. But what on earth were the idiots thinking who sent threatening letters to Coach McQueary whose only fault in this saga, we are told, was to report to Coach Paterno that he saw Sandusky molesting a young boy in the showers? It would be ironic if it is the same twisted sense of loyalty to a favorite that kept Paterno from bringing the whole mess into the open when he had the chance out of a sense of loyalty to his favorite assistant coach. That is, these idiots who single out for abuse the man with a conscience have the same moral blindness that their hero exhibited toward a favorite assistant coach.
But let’s stand back and consider what’s going on here. A man, Sandusky, was let go because he was allegedly guilty of molesting young boys. A fellow coach, McQueary, sees the event and reports it to his superior, Joe Paterno. Paterno then goes to his Athletics Director and reports the event in vague terms (from what we hear). But then nothing happens. Paterno’s moral blunder stems from his position of power at Penn State which gives him the ability to move mountains, yet he says nothing more. The event becomes known to the public at large and he is eventually fired for failure to do the right thing, which is the only thing the University could do in the circumstances. And then students riot over what they perceive to be an injustice, or, perhaps, simply because they are bored. Some of them write threatening notes to McQueary which forces the University to allow McQueary a leave of absence to avoid further violence. There are numerous victims in this sad affair, but the real victims who are doubtlessly suffering from untold trauma, to wit, those young boys who were molested, are being forgotten.