So ever since I heard about the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, it's been one massive trigger after another. I wrote this initially, but watching the PSU students riot in support of Coach Joe Paterno was incredibly disturbing.
And then I read this piece by Joe Posnanski, Paterno's biographer.
Here's the part that really got me:
I've been thinking about this a lot, and although I realize my perspective is colored by my experience, I still disagree with Posnanski and here's why. I'll let Dumbledore explain, because he is so much wiser than I am:
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets JK Rowling
When I teach writing workshops, I always start with character, because to me exploring the human character is the most interesting part of writing a novel. When we talk about plot, I explain the need to throw create tension by throwing stumbling blocks in the way of our character, because that forces the character to make choices, and it's through choices that the character experiences growth - or, conversely, exhibits the fatal flaw that leads to his or her downfall.
When I think about Joe Paterno, I think about the decent, good man that Posnanski sees, who had superlative abilities and indeed helped many young people. But who nonetheless had a tragic flaw.
Why did he make the choice he did? Is it because he was concerned about his legacy? Was it out of loyalty to a colleague whom he'd worked for years? We don't know the truth yet. But what we do know is that he made a despicable choice, for as yet to be ascertained reasons. And no matter what Joe Posnanski says, despite everything that has gone before, Joe Paterno deserves a tarnished legacy. Because our choices DO show what we truly are.