It could be that I am missing something, but I watched the news about the Penn State assistant football coach. Once more we are shocked, dismayed: another hero brought down. And then, George Stephanopoulos ended the story, shaking his head as he pondered how it could have gone on for so long?
Doesn’t he know? Really? Why are we even surprised at the Madoffs, the Cains, the abusive priests, the molesting coaches? Why are we surprised at all at anyone who betrays our trust? Stories like this come up often enough.
The vulnerable victims are so desperate for kindness.
Actually, we all are.
We all want to believe in something. In this: that there are people who deserve our admiration. We look for mentors. Maybe we need our heroes. At the very least, we need one another. There really are beautiful people in the world, many who care deeply and truly.
Sometimes we look at that “pillar” of society–yes, we place him, or her, or the institution on a pedestal, even worship them in certain ways.
No one wants to believe that the hero who seems so good in nearly every way could be capable of such cruelty, of such soul-robbing utter cruelty.
If we are that invested in the belief that appearances matter most, we are willing to defend the fantasy far past the time that reality tells us otherwise.
Yes, yes! Maybe the victims are the ones who are wrong!–much easier to believe that version, after all. Victims themselves often cannot believe past the fantasy. And if they believe in themselves at all, they are just suckers, right? Maybe they are not so much suckers as… human.
But what about the onlookers? the ones who watch, who see the truth?… Sure enough, their beliefs are shattered, too.
But then again, perhaps they simply lack the courage to stand up to what is truly wrong right beneath their noses. They are not invested personally. Whistleblowing is so messy. Perhaps they fear the loss of their own comfort and safety, or perhaps they fear the loss of illusion itself.
But then, when they–we–know of injustices and do not speak up, we also become the illusion.
The supporters, the protectors… in the end, we lose faith in them, as well.
And now, how devastating to realize that these stories of bullies may fail to shock. How indeed could this have gone on for so long?
It goes on in a place where bullies are allowed to maintain their power, where they are elected president, become judges in the highest courts, are appointed full professors, remain untaxed billionaires.
I hope that we all are outraged. I hope that we all find the courage when we see wrong not to turn away, not to mind our own business, not to stop caring. I hope that when we see wrong, we all will take a stand, be uncomfortable, say no, believe in what really is right.