I can't breathe. I haven't been able to for a few days now. Every time I try to, I feel as though someone is standing on my chest. It's anxiety. It's depression... and I know exactly what has set it off this time.
I have been, like so much of the country mortified by this Penn State/ Sandusky story. Watching the interviews, seeing college students march in the name of a school, I find myself trying to grasp all of it. Students are upset that an assistant coach doesn't get to be on the field and do his job this weekend. The school board has promised the ousted president a beautiful severance package. Disciples of the beloved head coach are holding vigil outside his door. All of the people who failed so many young men are getting a slap on their wrists with a simultaneous pat on their backs and it makes me sick.
For too many reasons, I mourn for these boys. I can't imagine having someone actually witness a grown man molest a child in a shower and not go straight to the police. Scratch that. I can't imagine someone witnessing such a travesty and not physically intervene...A small cough, a punch to a locker, a physical kicking this man in the balls...Any of it. Any bit of it to say to that little boy, "What is happening to you is WRONG. It is evil and it is against the law." More important, that young boy could have been looked straight in the eyes and told that none of any of this abuse was his fault. Those words and actions could have stopped a crime. Those words could have let Sandusky, the offending adult, know that he is a criminal. Said man could have become embarrassed and perhaps been forced to seek some help. The young boy could have for just a minute understood that not all adults are bad. That some people are trustworthy. At that very moment a young boy's self image could have been restored. Because this did not happen, because grown adults thought more of the legacy of a football program, countless boys had to endure similar acts. Young boys had to put on their clothes, thinking to themselves that they were the ones who were bad. The offending adults? No way. They were instead celebrated every freaking Saturday afternoon. They were carried on the shoulders of football players. Their names were being screamed like rock stars, over and over again.
The tragic thing is that this kind of hell is going on every single day somewhere in America. Perhaps in your town, or school or neighborhood. It could be a coach. A parent. An uncle, a church leader or a neighbor. Adult men and women. Innocent children are not just falling through the cracks here. They are being pushed through the cracks by these offenders. They are being stomped on by these bullys who think they are owed some sick sense of satisfaction at the cost of the innocence of a child. Finally, they are being left on the ground by all of us that choose to look the other way.
I want to ask every offender, "What kind of power is felt by stealing a soul from a child? What kind of sexual act is worth breaking a human spirit?"
Can we save everyone? Unfortunately not. But we can talk to our children. We can look out for how adults are interacting with them and other children. For the love of God, if we know something or if we see something, we must say something. If nothing comes of our actions, we must say something again. If we pretend like what we see or hear "didn't happen", we are just as guilty as the pass-the-buck-men of Penn State.
If we choose to look the other way for fear of losing some "respect" or "seniority", we are choosing to BE those weak men at Penn State, and well by that, we might as well hand Sandusky a bar of soap ourselves and join in.
We have to be the change, friends.