Integrity


Catching up, catching up… I seem to do this on a regular basis, so I just won’t talk about it this time, but will just blithely plunge in as if I have been keeping up on this the way I should have been…. 

So, what has my irritation meter rising this week? 

Responsibility. Integrity. 

They’re related, of course. Someone who has integrity takes responsibility where it is due. 

Like many of my friends and relations in the blogosphere, I have been outraged, angered, disgusted, dismayed, depressed, and saddened by the events at Penn State. Even before the Freeh Report was released, there was a stink about the whole situation. 

Adults who should have known better did not act with integrity and take the responsibility they should have. They hid behind excuses (“I didn’t want to jeopardize the process,” “I assumed it was being dealt with,” “We didn’t want to embarrass anyone,” “We wanted to be humane…”) and their own squeamishmess, allowing evil to flourish.  And so, because adults did not act like adults (with responsibility and integrity), children were hurt, irretrievably, including their trust in adults. 

You know, if similar events had transpired at your typical high school, it is likely they would have been stopped much much sooner—not certain, but probably so. We seem, as a society, to be more willing to monitor high school staff than we are university staff, even when the university staff are working with younger at-risk children. 

And while I am reluctant to say it, I have to wonder if that is not part of why those adults were OK with sweeping things under the rug. The victims were “only” at-risk youth; they were likely to have some kind of problem anyway, and at least they got to go to college Bowl games and other exciting events. If those youth from Second Mile had looked like them—let’s say it—white, middle-to-upper-class—would they have been so easily dismissed? I don’t think so. These children were—unconsiously, probably—viewed as disposable, likely to have issues and so they should be glad for the goodies they got and not complain about being attacked by a adult they had respected and trusted. 

What arrogance and entitlement! It’s clear from the Freeh   Report that the administration did not even consider the plight of those young men. No concern for the victims, only for treating the prepatrator “humanely.” Why, in the name of all that is holy, does he get the humane treatment when he is the criminal, he is the one victimising young boys? Why is he cared for and they are ignored? 

But the sad thing is, it happens all the time—not only in Happy Valley. All over the world, the powerful victimise the weaker and get away with it because someone turns their head, pretends they didn’t see, didn’t want to deal with the hassle or fallout or conflict or resentment of family or whatever their excuse is—thinking of themselves and their own comfort and convenient over the rights and desperate need of the victim.  Emotional abuse, gay bashing, sexual abuse, slavery, lynchings….they happen because they are allowed to happen. Someone who should have acted with responsibility and integrity did not. And others suffer.

I don’t have a solution. I wish I did.

But perhaps, even if we can’t change hearts, we can change behaviour. It would be a start. Honesty, integrity, responsibility. Can we live them out?

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