Saturday, November 12, 2011
November 12-13, 2011: There Are No Words
As I’ve been finishing up the week’s post-conference blogs and the Veteran’s Day one, I’ve simultaneously been struggling quite a bit with the question of whether, and if so what, I should write about the Penn State, the Sandusky, the Paterno, no let’s call it what it is the child rape scandal that’s been exploding over these same days. Despite my increasing willingness in this space to respond to current events (at least compared to the first few months, when I didn’t really do so at all), and despite the many significant AmericanStudies issues to which this scandal undoubtedly connects—none more frustrating to an academic AmericanStudier than the power that college football holds over our national and educational narratives; but certainly also issues related to power and privilege that are not at all outside of the Occupy Wall Street conversation; and many more besides—I have to admit that I have consistently found myself in the same place I do at this moment: without words to do justice to the scandal’s truly horrific and terrible core.
What I’ve instead mostly been doing in response to the scandal is, I’m sure, what many American parents and teachers and coaches and social workers, and uncles and aunts and grandparents and godparents, have been doing over these days—thinking about my boys, the oldest of whom is only a few years younger than some of Sandusky’s victims. I understand that for someone as obviously disturbed as Sandusky young boys represented something entirely different from what they would for any of those other constituencies—but what I remain unable to fathom is how any of the other people involved, all of whom of course knew young boys of their own and many I’m sure have had young sons, managed not to think of the victims in direct relationship to the boys in their own lives. I’ve argued multiple times in this space for how much would change if we could think about multiple issues through the lens of children—the children of illegal immigrants; children in Afghanistan—and had never thought that I might have to make the same case when it comes to the issue of whether to report a serial abuser and rapist of children. Again, I don’t quite have words for the disconnect there.
Ironically, my other most frustrated focus over the last couple days has indeed found words of his own: sportswriter Joe Posnanski, a favorite contemporary writer of mine, about whom I’ve written very enthusiastically in this space. Posnanski is currently living at Penn State, working on a biography of Paterno, and a result has posted a couple of blog entries (one on his main blog, on his Sports Illustrated blog) in response to the scandal. Despite framing both posts through the idea that he doesn’t want to write much of anything yet, he has in fact written quite a bit, and much of it, again, has been deeply frustrating to me; both because he seems determined to defend Paterno quite vociferously (and apparently did so even more passionately while speaking to a class on Joe Paterno at Penn State) and because he has bemoaned the state of his own book project. The latter factor is definitely the strongest source of frustration for me: I suppose it’s understandable that Posnanski is thinking about his book at a time like this, but what I cannot understand, what I once again have no adequate words to register my disgust with, is the idea that he thinks the state of his book is a worthy topic for a public response to the unfolding scandal.
That’s all I’ve got on this. More next week,
PS. What do you think?