“Take the statue down or we will.” That’s what the plane flying over Penn State said on Tuesday.
Increasing pressure from people both inside and outside of the university pressuring the academic institution to take down the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium are loud and effective. So much so that members of the student body have camped out next to the statue 24/7 displaying signs ready to physically protect the bronze likeness of the man they still view as an icon.
I’m trying to figure out what the people who want the statue taken down would get out of doing that. What did we actually get out of Saddam Hussein’s statue being toppled in Baghdad? I can remember watching it fall and the feeling that “the war was now over,” but was it? Try telling that to the families who lost loved ones in Iraq after that date.
On the flip side, I’m also trying to figure out why people want it to remain. Who could possibly look at that and not think of the whole Sandusky thing? In some respects it’s insulting to leave it up because of the message it sends to so many. Even if that awful message is not what the majority feels, if there is just one victim that feels that way, just one, there’s no way they can let it stand.
Whether you are a Paterno supporter or detractor at this point, no matter how you personally view his legacy, you can’t possibly condone what happened under his watch. Looking at the lesser of two evils, if taking the statue down somehow eases the pain of what’s transpired, even for just one person, how could anyone say the statue should stay? Would it really cause pain to anyone if the statue were no longer there? Would anyone have a nightmare because the statue was removed? Would anyone’s job, lifestyle or way of life be disturbed if the statue were removed?
Whatever the circumstances surrounding Paterno’s involvement in the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s conduct, no matter the magnitude of how integral JoePa was in sweeping it under the carpet, the facts are clear that he had some knowledge at some point along the way. At best, Paterno’s reaction was to have Sandusky step down from his position as defensive coordinator. That muted response clearly was not enough from a moral/societal acceptance standpoint for many, and you can make the argument that he may have had a legal obligation to do more as well.
The statue has to come down. It doesn’t have to be bulldozed, it can simply be removed and placed somewhere in a private venue where his supporters can still honor it if they wish. But it can’t remain in such a visible place where it’s a slap in the face to so many.
JoePa was in no way an evil man, he simply made a bad decision on what to do when he was placed in an uncomfortable spot. While you can make the argument that he shouldn’t be vilified, attempting to argue that he should be honored with a statue would be taking his mistake and saying that it was ok. We can’t do that. Sorry JoePa, your likeness can’t remain where it is.