Yesterday, the deluge hit Happy Valley yet again.
This time it isn’t actual rain that buffets our waterlogged town — which, given the last few weeks, is a welcome respite — but instead the Sandusky scandal, which once more reigns the airwaves and news channels. The current storm stems from preliminary hearings for three former Penn State administrators, and my twitterstream is full to overflowing of updates, assessments, and judgement.
It’s only day two, and already we are weary.
I try not to say much on this travesty. So much has been written already, and in much greater detail than I have the stomach for. Although I’ve started writing about it several times, I’ve only published one (very personal) post, back in the early days of discovery when the Grand Jury report was released to the public. Reading the findings was, at best, like being an unwilling accomplice to the sordid events; at worst, like being sexually assaulted ourselves. Either way, it’s not a telling for the faint of heart, but it is a tale that had to be told. A difficult but necessary first step in the process of uncovering the lies, righting the wrongs, and beginning the healing — whatever that might look like. Nothing about this process has been easy. Everything has come at a price.
The continual onslaught of media frenzy and accusations has left our communal psyche scarred, to say the least. Over the last 18 months, the wounds have precious little time to heal before the next tempest is upon us. As a community, we’ve endured repeated assaults on all fronts. Our integrity. Our traditions. Our students. Our school. Our livelihood. Ourselves. This subject is a lightning rod for anger and outrage which threaten to strike no matter where you stand on the topic. Repeatedly we are wounded in the crossfire; torn between defending ourselves or taking shelter from the viciousness. Each time we hear the thunder of another attack we wait, bracing ourselves for the lightning to strike, counting the seconds to see just how close it hits.
We are dangerously close to becoming numb to it all.
And this? This is a grave mistake. An unconscionable slap in the face of our humanity. Because this, at the risk of repeating myself, boils down to one very simple fact: Boys were befriended and sexually abused by a man. This is the uncomfortable truth of the matter that we keep trying to dodge; that we’d like to conveniently check off the list as having been dealt with so that we can now move on, thank you very much. Think you’ve had more than you can handle of this ordeal? Step into the shoes of any one of these victims and then tell him how you feel. How long would you be able to stay in those shoes before you begged to step back into the shadows of anonymity? Go back and reread their depositions; then look these victims in the eye and try to explain how weary you are of hearing it all yet again; events they must surely want to forget but, instead, must repeatedly replay in their minds, in front of a worldwide audience; some accusing, some judging, some sympathetic. Consider how many years these victims have lived with these assaults seared on their psyches, and the constant struggle of trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance of their nightmares.
Perhaps if we can do this — if we can remember what the critical point is here — then we can begin to approach an understanding of just how painful this scarring must be to live with. Every. Single. Day. Stepping forward and speaking out is a burden that is hard to bear. I think of this, and I am ashamed to speak of my weariness. We need to remember there are very real victims, and these survivors deserve our compassion for what they have gone through, and for what they must live with the rest of their lives.
That is living in the eye of the storm.