Now I’m far from old but I do definitely notice the difference in how children come up now from when I was young. Kids now have everything; flat screen televisions, cell phones, video games and computers all by the age of 10. I remember being ecstatic when my brother and I got an old 13 inch black & white tv for our room. We had to change the stations with a pair of pliers and used a coat hanger for the antennae, and it only picked up 4 channels…and we were happy.
We found non-technological ways to entertain ourselves. My brother was a natural athlete so he played a lot of sports. I found myself more the drawing, trading cards, comic book kind of kid. Funny, I learned so much about life in between colorful, cape clad heroes saving the Earth. Really, I learned about having integrity, trying to do the right thing, overcoming adversity and especially being responsible.
One lesson I learned as a child that I know I still hold on to today came from a theme that was present in my favorite heroes…
We all know Spider-Man was this guy who was bit on the hand by this radioactive spider and was given all these amazing powers. However his life was truly altered when a thief robbed a man that had just wronged him, and instead of stopping the thief he let him go. Later that night, the same thief murdered the only father he had known.
Batman was based on a child of wealthy parents, they were leaving a show late at night and a thief stuck them up for money. The child stood and watched as both of his parents were shot and killed in front of him, filling him with a drive and pain to fight crime.
I thought about this in light of recent events. This past week former Penn State college football coach Joe Paterno died of lung cancer. He was 85 years old when he passed. He was a legend at Penn State coaching for 46 seasons and leading them to over 400 victories. Joe Paterno was fabulous at his job. He deserves all of the kudos and compliments that come with being a great college football coach. What struck a nerve with me was not about how he’s being remembered but what’s being forgotten.
There is currently an investigation going on at Penn State specifically their athletic department over allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct with underage boys by a former assistant football coach. (See “Snitch Please”) Joe Paterno was let go of his position because of allegations of him “looking the other way” and not getting involved in stopping the abuse. There is a growing list of men and young boys coming out saying they were abused on campus. Paterno admitted to being informed but ultimately did nothing about it.
You see in life much like comics defining moments aren’t always based on what you do sometimes it’s what you didn’t do. Spider-Man’s guilt and feelings of responsibility were embedded in him because he felt he should have stopped that thief. Batman’s pain and rage was formed based on the feeling that he should have been able to do something. By doing nothing Joe Paterno enabled and allowed the abuse of nearly 20 young boys to happen forever scarring their lives.
When I brought this up to some people I was met with, “Only God can judge a man”, “Don’t speak ill of the dead”, and a slew of other clichéd miscellaneous nonsense. First of all we judge men every day, it’s called a jury of our peers, and if you’re going to take the stand point that it’s all good because someone passes away then be consistent. If you feel Joe gets a pass then so does Osama Bin Ladin, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and EVERYONE else who has wronged in life and then passed on. I mean everyone! The guy who robbed your mother or beat your sister, the con-man that stole your grandparent’s retirement, even the drunk driver that took your child from you…EVERYONE! If you’re not willing to do that, close your mouth!
I understand that Paterno can no longer be punished but his involvement does need to be acknowledged. I hope that the story doesn’t die because he did and those boys receive justice. It’s not politically correct to continue to bring up the allegations with him passing and these kids can easily once again be swept under the rug.
It’s what we do in life that creates the legacy we leave behind; Joe Paterno didn’t shoot anyone, or steal or abuse children but his inactivity led to life altering circumstances for those young boys. Pain begets pain, and it can easily send a young mind spiraling into a dark place. Without something or someone to show to the contrary it’s very easy for a child to become lost.
I truly hope Joe Paterno is resting in peace, and in between the tv and xbox that the boys read a comic book or two.
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