Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I am reminded of this notion as I reflect upon the Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of The Pennsylvania State University Related to the Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Gerald A. Sandusky. This report, being referenced as the Freeh Report, basically states that top Penn State officials (namely Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, and Curley) disregarded the victims and by doing so empowered Sandusky to continue abusing young boys. The damning 267 page report is a very sad commentary on where these four men from Penn State placed value and the cost at which they did so.
The question now is, are these good men who did nothing (and hence evil triumphed) or was this malfeasance – in that they actively fostered an evironment where abuse could continue unabated?
I am going to have to fall on the side of malfeasance. They knew who Sandusky was, what he was doing, and the cost to his victims. They put what they perceived was the university’s best interests (and likely their own as well) over the people involved. They are accessories both before and after the fact and deserve criminal penalties.
I have nothing but contempt for this situation; however, allow me to take this opportunity to say that this kind of ugliness happens more often than you may think and far more often than it should. Every single day businesses, institutions, and other organizations put money, reputation, and protection of their interests above people’s lives and well-being. Not every business, institution or organization – but enough that it is disturbingly predictable. People (often powerful ones) lie, cheat, and look the other way and they rationalize away their behavior. In the process they allow dangerous chemicals to affect communities (e.g., the PG & E incident in Hinkley, California), allow dangerous products to knowingly stay in use (e.g., the Ford Pinto), and allow innocent folks to be victimized (e.g., the Catholic Church). You can find these stories daily in the newspaper – stories like the one at Penn State – stories that make you angry and sick. These are the stories that remind us that money and power have a way of adding shades to behavior that most regular folks cannot fathom.
The day may come when you are faced with a situation where the only thing between the triumph of evil and innocent victims is you. You will have to decide to do something or do nothing. Doing something may come with a cost – your job, your status in the community, your friends, and maybe even your family. Doing nothing will come with a cost – your conscience and your integrity.
Ask yourself today before you are faced with such an evil – what will you do? Would you have come forward if you were in Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, or Curley’s position? In a like situation, will you put your job, your employer’s reputation, and your own well-being at risk – or will you do nothing? If you are not sure what you will do, then imagine that your child, spouse, or another family member is the one that will suffer some sort of injury or death from the inaction. Would you be satisfied with someone else’s inaction in that situation? I suspect not. Do unto others folks as you would have them do unto you – it’s the golden rule for a reason.
Day one thousand one hundred and three of the new forty – obla di obla da