Calhoun’s Cannons for June 22, 2012
During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
The shocking thing is this: How easily everyone turned away from the children and their truth. They did not matter, but the institutions that their truth threatened did. The Catholic Church, Penn State, the Boy Scouts, the dynamic was the same – deny, deflect, cover up, turn away, turn away.
And how easily the mind deflected the children’s truth into euphemism – they weren’t raped, they were “inappropriately touched.” Or “molested.” Their rapists were “troubled men” who needed to be treated with understanding and compassion. Or wrapped in the code of silence, for the good of the church, for the good of the school. And the children were dismissed and turned away. That made things much, much easier.
And how quickly silence overtook everyone involved. One didn’t discuss such things in public. Not in polite company. Not in the press or on TV. And so the shadow world continued: lying adults, truthful children, the safety of an institution placed above the safety of a child’s soul.
Year after year after year, all the lost children hidden from view, the sins piling to the sky until they couldn’t be hidden any longer. And when they finally broke free, how easily the adults scattered –I didn’t know, I didn’t see, we thought it best to keep it quiet. The Catholic Church stonewalled, withheld documents, fought with investigators all the way down the line. They were protecting their institution, you see, not going hell bent for leather to get justice for their raped children. Penn State initially diminished, dismissed, overlooked, and feebly did as little as possible, until Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky’s crimes couldn’t possibly be contained any longer. Yet even then, vast crowds of Penn State students turned out to support their god, Coach Joe Paterno, when it was manifest that Joe had clearly guarded his school, not “his kids.” And now the news that the Boy Scouts have for years covered up their own file cabinet of rape cases. More denial, more lies, more turning away to protect a revered institution.
And why not? It’s clear that in our society, institutions are of value and must be preserved at all costs. When it became clear that the Catholic Church had been involved for years in a conspiracy of protecting child raping priests and was even now actively involved in stonewalling investigations, every Catholic layman and woman should have walked out of the church door and refused to come back until the Church hierarchy had a thorough house-cleaning. But that didn’t happen. They stayed in their pews. In a choice between their church and their children, their choice was clear.
And at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky is going to prison, but everyone else is happily ensconsed in their cushy jobs and it remains to be seen how far the ongoing investigation of this mater will go. I’m betting it will quietly go away, a few wrists slapped, nothing more. Time to move on. There’s another football season to prepare for.
And I have yet to hear that all Scoutmasters across the nation are holding a national boycott until headquarters moves aggressively to open up those files and assist fully with a police investigation and then be held fully accountable for their years-long cover up.
But that’s the way of it in a society that gives lip service to children, while not really caring for them in real time. Compared to other civilized societies, our child welfare numbers are abysmal; hungry kids, sick kids, poor kids, “at risk kids.” The number of cracks they can fall through are endless because Americans don’t much care for safety nets, not even for kids. The “village” needed to properly raise a child was ridiculed and blown away years ago. Now, they’re on their own, like their parents, to sink or swim, so they’d better just toughen up.
And if sexual predators in the form of priests, teachers, coaches, scout-masters come after them, if the institution their rapists work for is rich and powerful and well connected, the children’s truth will go into a file cabinet, for the good of all, you understand.
Unless we, as a society, decide that a child’s soul, a child’s truth, needs to trump a church steeple or an ivy-covered campus. And so long as euphemisms create a false reality, maybe it’s time to stop speaking about “molesting,” which is such a muddled, soft word, and start calling it what it is: rape. Maybe that way, when a child speaks that truth, we’ll believe him.