For a good week or so now, I’ve been struggling to put my feelings about the Penn State scandal into words, wondering if I should even try. I’ve been struggling with the feelings themselves, wondering why it’s hit me so hard.
I didn’t go to Penn State. I don’t live there. I did grow up in Western PA, though, a little over an hour from Happy Valley, in a part of the state that bleeds blue and white. The aunt I idolized is a Penn State grad, as is my grandpa. I thought I’d go there too, until I realized how huge it was and opted for a much, much smaller private school. Several of my cousins went there, as well as countless classmates, and some of my good friends still live there. Penn State is a part of my identity.
When I talked to Rand about this, he said he thought he understood. He said it was kind of like what it felt like being a Bills fan when OJ Simpson was charged with murder. “It’s like they took a piece of your childhood away,” he said.
Yeah, it is kind of like that.
I am a little bit heartbroken.
Something that I think people have failed to notice during all of the uproar, all of the anger, all of the reaction from the media and the Internet, is that people are grieving. Students. Alumni. Citizens. Me.
There doesn’t necessarily have to be a death for people to grieve.
It is unfortunate that some people behaved badly. Some of the things students and fans have said that have been quoted are embarrassing. I imagine some of those people will be embarrassed themselves, after they’ve had time to think, after they’ve been confronted with their words in black and white for all eternity. It’s a shame that those people are all most of the world will see…because most of the Penn Staters I know (and hell, even the ones I don’t) are good people who want to see justice done, to see those who had a hand in this punished, even as it means losing faith in people they believed in. (Oh, Joe Pa…even thinking about it makes me so incredibly sad…)
As I’ve watched events unfold, I have been sad and angry on behalf of my Penn State friends and family when I’ve seen people online mocking the average intelligence of PSU students based on the thoughtless words and actions of a small (but admittedly VERY LOUD) minority. It shouldn’t surprise me…after all, this is what we do, time and time again. I think I will remember this every time I catch myself judging a group based on what a couple of loudmouths with signs are saying.
A little while ago, my friend Jennifer posted a link to this video on Facebook, and that video was the thing that pushed me over the edge to finally write this down. Two of the images stuck with me…both of them what I assume to be students holding signs. One read,
WE ARE…going to make this right.
My prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy. First and foremost, of course, with the victims and their families—they should be the main focus here—but also, with everyone else out there whose heart is a little bit broken because of it.
Click here to donate to RAINN – grassroots effort by a group of PSU students and alumni
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