Every Good Morning

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He did not know their names.

James Holmes entered the theater in Aurora clothed in full SWAT gear; he was dressed for a play, not for the movie. He dressed for his part in the most recent theatrical production of I Too Will Be Famous or perhaps I Am GOD: I Take What I Please or maybe another title or some other vile claim floated through his incomprehensible mind. He is alleged to have called out to them “I am the Joker,” before he opened fire. He was not acting out a movie. He needed a live audience so he could kill them. All the individuals in front of him, staring at him from their seats, were disposable, anonymous, props for his show.

A failure to acknowledge the simple humanity of strangers may render those individuals as “others”, as so distant from normal life and its concerns that they do not merit consideration as human beings. They become objects, and we may often do anything we please to objects.

Now come over to Penn State. Now think of the boy in the shower with Sandusky, the one McQueary saw being sexually assaulted in 2001. He reports the assault to Joe Paterno: “Paterno did not immediately report what McQueary told him, explaining that he did not want to interfere with anyone’s weekend (62).” *

He waited until the next day to report the incident.

Where was the boy during those 24 hours? Was Sandusky with him?

“There is no information indicating that Spanier, Shultz, Paterno or Curley made any effort to identify the child victim or determine if he had been harmed (63).” *

One part of the action plan finally concocted at a meeting of Spanier, Shultz and Curley 15 days after the assault suggested that they “… tell JS to avoid bringing children into the Lasch Bldg…. (63).” * Sandusky’s assault as reported by McQueary took place in February of 2001. Sandusky was arrested for the first time in November of 2011. He was free to do as he pleased for 129 months.

No one has been able to discover the name of the boy in the shower.

Paterno is the linch-pin for everything that occurred in 2001. If he reports what McQueary saw immediately and puts all his power behind an insistence to act, Sandusky would have been stopped. Who can doubt this? **

Perhaps the most telling question about Paterno’s reaction was formulated by a columnist: “If McQueary had come to Joe and told him he’d seen Sandusky with Paterno’s grandson, or the son of someone Joe knew, do you think his reaction would have been the same? And if not, then why was the welfare of the child who was with Sandusky any less important? Do you think Joe would have been content with merely reporting the incident to his “boss?” #

But it was an anonymous boy, someone without a face or a name or a voice, and therefore someone who could be ignored, someone who would go away.

Paterno murdered no one. He assaulted no one. His fall is tragic, not demonic. He was a good man who acted as if he believed that he could contain something foul and ugly, that he could banish it to another place. Maybe he believed too much in his own reputation as JoePa, the benevolent coach, the icon of hundreds of thousands.

Holmes chose to play the devil. He stole lives. These human beings are gone forever – Jessica Ghawi, Alex Sullivan, Micalya Medek, John Larimer, Rebecca Wingo, Matthew McQuinn, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Jesse Childress, Alexander Boik, Alexander Teves, Jonathan Blunk, Gordon Cowdon. The tragedy lies in their deaths.

After these terrifying episodes, we feel helpless, saturated in media reports and pushed about by currents of detached horror and grief, and yet unable to affect the reality of what has occurred. Perhaps we might learn anew what we should do in our daily give-and-take with others.

Michael Connelly, a novelist, has created a recurring character in some of his books, Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles Homicide Detective. Bosch lives by a simple five word code: Everybody counts or nobody counts. He makes the list of the dead personal — prostitutes, bums, black, white, yellow or brown, Hollywood glitterati, the unpleasant, the homely, the slumping guy crossing the street with a grocery bag, the old women forgotten by everyone else. All of them deserve his best effort to discover their killers because they were human beings. No one is to be left behind or ignored. They were like him. He carries their names.

*The Freeh Report

#Of course, this possibility does not address the 1998 report of Sandusky showering naked with victim 6, an incident that generated a lengthy police report; Paterno was aware of the incident.

**MikeKern, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 2012


© Mike Wall

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