Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Writing as a guest columnist for the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates
argues against removing the statue
of Joe Paterno from the entrance to Beaver Stadium, where Penn State plays its
home football games. For anyone who hasn't followed the Penn State
child sexual abuse scandal, the calls for removal come after the findings from the school's internal
investigation, headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, noted Paterno's role
in a cover-up.
While the desire to demolish a statue created to honor Paterno is understandable, Coates holds, removing the statue would actually be a mistake. Coates ends the piece as follows:
Arguing for the statue's removal, the legendary coach Bobby Bowden said he wouldn't want [Jerry] Sandusky's crimes "brought up every time I walked out on the field." That's the point. Sandusky's crimes should never be forgotten, nor should the crimes of the broader community. It is shameful to deify men who put nationalist ritual before children. But it is more shameful to pretend that this elevation was achieved by Joe Paterno's singular hand.I agree. Tearing down the statue will not magically change for the better the cultural problems that enabled this atrocity any more than looking the other way while mouthing pieties about character meant that Jerry Sandusky had never harmed anyone or would cease his predations. If leaving the statue in place pleases a few Paterno loyalists, so be it: The very fact that it might would be an integral part of the lesson.
Removing the Paterno statue allows Happy Valley to forget its own compliance in a national crime, to expunge its own culpability in its ruthless pursuit of glory. The statue should remain, and beneath it there should be a full explanation of Sandusky's crimes, Paterno's role and some warning to all of us who would turn a pastime into a god and elect a mortal man as its avatar. [bold added]