I don’t normally comment on issues in the current news, but something about the ongoing brouhaha at Penn State bothered me enough to voice my concerns. My issue is not really with the sordid details of the incident, which are horrifying in themselves, but commonplace enough to dismiss with a shake of the head. (My apologies to all those involved and affected. I mean no disrespect.) What really struck me in this affair is the reaction of the students at Penn State, all those football supporters, Nittany Lions fans and other knee-jerk flag wavers, at the official firing of Joe Paterno. Rioting on the campus! Overturned vehicles. What, is this Tahrir Square? What is is it about large than life figures that brings out such ridiculous emotions? I mean, the man was not directly responsible for anything, but he knew, and procrastinated, and all down the line, everyone in authority worked to save their own skins and preserve the legacy of the sports franchise that defines Penn State. We put our idols on pedestals and scream bloody murder when they are toppled, forgetting that they are also human beings, flawed, like the rest of us. Same with our politicians and other celebrities. Must be some innate human condition that we are incapable of overcoming. We’re not talking isolated incidents here, but concerted action by masses of people, who are defending the idealism of a notion or an institution, and are unable to distinguish between the institution and the individuals representing it. Reminds me of the OJ incident. I guess we don’t like damaged heroes.
The Politics of Innocence