WELL, first, what Scott said, and I have no hopes of being so brief.
There's no real reason for me to add my slender reed to the general moral condemnation of everything connected with this episode occurring everywhere outside of State College, PA. I'm wiling to presume that the college yahoos who fanned the stench into every corner of the university weren't thinking clearly, and aren't really equipped to do so, anyway. I'll even tip my hat to the Trustees who made the only decision sane people could have, because, god knows, that's almost more than we can expect, anymore.
I know you know that in 2002, a 27-year-old grad student named Mike McQueary supposedly walked in on the anal rape of a 10-year-old boy. And his immediate reaction was that he'd better call his father. I'm guessing in order to clarify whether the laws and norms of 21st century America or 1st century Rome took precedence in the Penn State showers.
We don't know either the internal or the external dialogue that ugly scene engendered. And we are justified in asking, if not concluding, that Mike McQueary's first thought in that situation was for his career. And that everyone else's first thought when--if!--they were informed of it was for the reputation of a big-time college sports program. And everybody managed to carry it around for a decade, and sleep, however well, and maybe, on occasion, hope like hell that no other boy got buggered, or if he did, at least that the news didn't get out.
How'd we get here? Shame is not a strong enough word; I'm not sure what is. If we're so willing to accept, or pretend not to see, the Ancient Roman's preferred choice of carnal destination, maybe we could say a few good words about their willingness to open a vein when the situation called for it.
Let those who did nothing face that fact, forever, now. I believe in the power of redemption. I don't believe it's likely to occur when one reportedly is busy drunk-dialing his receiver corps for a little pre-game wallow in self-pity.
I'd rather ask how we can look at this and treat it as though some unspeakable Evil just happened to land in Happy Valley, and Mistakes Were Made, and those responsible Will Be Punished. We are evidently supposed to realize that the near-instantaneous (in news cycle terms) punishment of higher-ups shows just how serious we are about things this time. If this had been Iraq, Paterno would have his Medal of Freedom ceremony scheduled.
This is corporate culture, and this is American culture for the last three decades; Winners get to fuck the skinned and the scorned, and call it Freedom (and, if they're smart about it, take a charity deduction into the bargain). It ain't like you had one catamite fancier who happened to be caught, and tossed back, by one former Penn State quarterback. The entire athletic hierarchy at Penn State acquiesced. So too did people at the charity harem Jerry Sandusky ran. We are in Good German territory here, and we are justified in asking why. How did career, and self-love, come to trump every other consideration, even protection of the most vulnerable and most innocent? This is vile, this is inexplicable and unconscionable and maybe unforgivable, but does it really differ all that much from what we've been proudly doing to the poor since 1981?