Some Penn State students have rallied around their fired coach, while the U.S. public routinely supports leaders who fail to prevent atrocities
Reflecting on the Penn State child molestation scandal, the cowardice of the man who didn't intervene when he witnessed one of the the rapes, the inadequate response of Joe Paterno, and the students who rowdily protested Paterno's firing, Joe Carter wrote this at First Things: "I tell myself that it must be an anomalous event, for I can't bear the idea that it may be symptomatic of our larger culture."
Depressed as I am by the conclusion that America as a whole isn't so different from Penn State, I can't shake it. I don't mean that we condone child molestation, or feel anything but outrage at child abusers. But are America's elected leaders, like Joe Paterno, largely decent men who do too little when atrocities are committed beneath them and at worst become complicit? Are Americans, like the students who protested at Penn State, more viscerally upset at the idea of holding their favorite leaders accountable than by terrible abuses themselves?
I think so.
No two atrocities are exactly alike, but the Penn State abuse case is particularly horrifying because the 8 victims were children, the most helpless members of our society. That single-digit number of victims is and ought to be shocking. To put it into perspective, however, 750 children in the Texas juvenile detention system alleged sexual abuse by staff in the six-year period ending in 2007, a figure that includes the inevitable false accusations, but that most likely understates the total number of actual abuse victims, according to most experts, because a lot of kids in confinement understandably fear for their safety too much to admit being abused.