Statue Stupidity

Evidence presented during the trial and conviction for child abuse of Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator of the Penn State football team, all-but proved - as had been suspected already from new reports - that there was substantial cover-up of Sandusky's crimes by university officials and staff, probably implicating the late coach Paterno among others.

Some hooligans are suggesting that Paterno's statue be taken down.

Absurd as it is for Paterno to have had a statue on campus while still alive, not to mention still coach, it was and is a measure of what he has meant to the image and idea of the institution.  The image is tarnished, perhaps forever, but taking down the statue is not going to help things.

Should the United States remove Thomas Jefferson's memorial from its capital because the man kept slaves, and perhaps abused them?

Should Nelson's statue come down from Trafalgar square because he was an adulterer?

Should you have to put on your resume that you've "borrowed" supplies from your office, exaggerated your hours, gossiped about your boss, encouraged and laughed at stories that weren't true, yelled at your children because you had a bad day?

Paterno's legacy before this scandal was that of a great coach and an upright man; if it turns out he was more human than we realized, then Diogenes is right once again.  While we cannot trivialize the evils committed, it would be willfully ignorant and vindictive to pretend not to see the case from Paterno's side; what should you do when a good friend and subordinate is charged with something this abominable?  If you prefer to believe Paterno's motives were more venal, it is still not difficult to understand the desire to sweep under the rug something which would threaten his prestige - and maybe even his job: coaches have been fired for less cause than crimes committed by a subordinate.

If Penn State takes down the statue, what they say is that they refuse to acknowledge the good he did that earned him his place; that they want to disassociate themselves from something like the last sixty years of their sporting history.  If the crime was Paterno's, then such a heinous act might deserve the erasure.  But when the misdeed is not even his, and in fact evidence suggests that what allegations he knew he dealt with as required legally - even if he failed morally by not ensuring justice was timely - then we are looking at overreaction.

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