Ah, these are the good old days — redux — of campus activism, student organizing, direct action, participatory democracy, and, woohoo!, all those fun antics of the 1960s.
What’s old is new again, no?
Fighting For Peace And Justice In The 1960s
Take last night. Hundreds of students — maybe thousands — took to the streets at a major campus. Tempers flared. A TV van was overturned. Bonfires were lit. The chant went up, “Fk the trustees!”
Oh man, I’m young again! When I was 13 years old, I couldn’t wait to get to college where I could shake my fist in righteous indignation at the stuffy old board of trustees, rail against the Vietnam War, and carry placards against racism.
Today, the kids are alright once again. Wall Street, the sickening gap between the rich and the poor, and the right wing have driven students into the streets just like the ’60s. Occupy encampments are popping up all over the….
Wait a minute. Whoa.
Last night’s festivities had nothing to do with poverty and greed and austerity budgets. No.
At Penn State, the trouble was over the firing of one Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno, born 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, resident for the last 60-plus years near the central Pennsylvania town of State College.
Fighting For…, Um…, Something In The 2010s
Joe Paterno may be the most celebrated Pennsylvanian since, oh, Ben Franklin. Or at least Kevin Bacon.
Old Joe Pa was fired last night. That’s why the mobs descended upon the sleepy campus and rioted.
Old, venerated, wildly successful, legendary Joe Pa. Kicked to the side like just another half-eaten hamburger. The winningest college football coach in the history of the Solar System. Maybe even the Milky Way Galaxy, for all we know.
What ensued was, yes, righteous indignation, direct action, participatory democracy.
And all because a great man was unceremoniously dumped.
Um, that great man essentially sat on his hands when he found out his trusted aide, his long-time friend, the architect of the Nittany Lions’ storied defenses, was caught having sex with a 10-year-old boy in the shower room of the football facility nearly ten years ago. Allegedly.
Still Pals Despite The Shower Scene
A Grand Jury has charged Joe Pa’s great and good pal Jerry Sandusky with diddling around with at least eight other such small fry. It also has charged Penn State’s athletic director and campus police boss with perjury. Apparently, they valued the football program’s reputation a thousand-fold above the psyches, the mouths, and the anuses of those little boys.
As for Joe Pa, he found out about the shower room incident almost immediately after it was discovered. Some graduate assistant, according to the top notch sports writer Joe Posnanski, had decided to go to the football facility late one night in 2002 to study game films. He heard noises coming from the shower room and went to investigate. There he saw the perverse primal scene.
The graduate assistant reported what he saw to Paterno. The coach told his own superiors.
And that was that.
Joe Paterno, a great man, a legend, leader of young men, and the winningest college football coach in the Solar System, promptly forgot about the whole thing.
Alright, maybe he didn’t exactly forget about it. I have no way of knowing what rattles around in the head of a great man or the winningest college football coach in the history of humankind.
We only know that Joe Pa did nothing to delve into the accusation. He instituted no investigation. He didn’t fire or reprimand his great and good pal. He could even have thought the whole story was a malicious lie and raised a stink that his trusted companion was being persecuted. But he didn’t.
The record shows that Joe Pa sat on his hands.
Joe Pa, whose surname means “fatherly” in Italian, issued a press release earlier this week. In it he said, “… I did what I was supposed to do with the one charge…. Let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold.”
In other words, he covered his ass.
Whaddya Want Me To Do?
And now he’s fired.
And the student activists of Penn Sate University have rioted in response.
I hope Penn State never wins another game in any sport they play as long as Joe Pa is alive. Oh, and as long as any of the child-abuse condoning jerks who took to the streets last night live, either.