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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/29/12

Still Looking for Truth at Penn State

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Author 80364
Message Joel Stoltzfus
[i]"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."[/i] 
Anaïs Nin

It is our own existing preconceived notions that tell us how to interpret the facts.  People quickly embrace the narrative which most appeals to them and even if this sometimes means ignoring facts or dismissing more reasonable explanations of behavior.  What an individual sees in the Sandusky affair could say more about them and their biases than the truth. 

To those cynical of college sports, their bias could mean accepting the corruption explanation without any degree skepticism and simply assume that protecting football interests was the reason the university investigation of Sandusky ended with regret for too little action.  But those who know who Paterno was or what he stood for are far likely to be a bit more skeptical of the evils attributed to him and suspicious of those who were so quick in laying the blame on him.  In the end we often just believe what we want to believe irregardless of the actual weight of evidence.

Yes, it could truly be that there was an attempt to conceal the abuse allegations at Penn State.  But even if there was irrefutable evidence of it, that still would not prove the motive was to protect the football program.  How could it have hurt Penn State football for Sandusky, not even a coach at the time of the 2001 incident, to be outed?  It doesn't add up.

More than likely this is an institutional example of "bystander effect" or when everyone assumes someone else has taken care of the issue and nobody really has.  Paterno was not a witness to the abuse, he did report the abuse allegations told to him to his superiors and he truthfully may have assumed the matter would be resolved correctly by his superiors.  It would have been against reporting laws for him to go outside the chain of command and he was not a witness.

It is also unpleasant for most people to confront such terrible allegations.  I believe most people want to trust the people they know and no responsible person wants to accuse falsely.  Sandusky obviously had fooled many, so what's to say he didn't partially convince the university internal investigation that the incident reported to them was an exaggeration and the witness mistook what was going on?  Maybe it was easier to believe the colleague they thought they knew over an unknown victim and a witness too embarrassed to give an accurate description?  We are partial like it or not and feel we are better at judging character than we likely are.

The sanctimony that paints Penn State officials automatically as villains, as one dimensional men who cared only about football, will not help prevent the next Sandusky.  And, punishing random people in the name of children is certainly not justice.  The conclusions are not supported without overwhelming evidence.  The surmises are not helpful and not only because innocent people may be harmed in the rush to judgment, but also because those truly guilty may be able to slip away unnoticed in the haste to lay blame. 

Assuming there was a cover up to protect football may not get to the true heart of the matter and could actually be a lost opportunity to learn about our own human nature.  Worse, it is accepting blindly a narrative created by those who may themselves want to conceal the real whole truth by alleging the scandal for their own self-serving political or partisan purposes.

[i]"There is a case for telling the truth; there is a case for avoiding the scandal; but there is no possible defense for the man who tells the scandal, but does not tell the truth."[/i]
G.K. Chesterton

The scandal is not always what is reported.  The real scandal is often in what is missing from the reports, both the questions not asked or the facts left out.  Look at the Freeh report, consider what facts are included and also think about what relevant information may be missing.  Who or what does it leave out and why?  Facts can be manipulated, taken out of context and do not always create a truthful narrative.  What we think we know and even if based in facts, is not always the truth.  This is why we should be careful with our judgments, our judgments are not always true.

[i]"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."[/i] 

The words of Jesus according to Luke 6:37

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Joel Stoltzfus is a full time truck driver, amateur philosopher, free thinker and aspiring writer.  He is 33 years old and currently lives in central PA.


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Still Looking for Truth at Penn State

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