Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Shame, son, is a gateway to grace." I say this as a Penn State grad who still lives up the valley from the university: shaming has educational, social and moral functions. Nothing and no-one ever changes without someone who's capable of it feeling ashamed of the way things are, the way they are, and doing something hard and real that might relieve them of that mortifying sensation of having done something shameful, or have allowed something shameful to continue.

It's not a guarantee, and many's the man who weaseled his way out of that discomfiting inner conversation through sophistry, cheap justification or mere rationalization, but shame, naked shame, is salvation to those willing to listen to that hectoring, mocking, damning sound.

We've all lived in this valley, and known that there was something unnatural about the position of power the football program was allowed. It was a snowball rolling down the slope of our acquiescence, and it was bound to hurt someone downslope, in some way or fashion. It could have been petty corruption, as at Ohio State, or student misbehavior, but for our sins, it was something worse. They're painting over murals downtown and bringing in retired FBI bureaucrats to whitewash the less tangible things, but it's all the same - a twisting away from an ugly set of facts, and a disinclination to see how far the rot has gone.

You don't fix dry-rot by painting it over, it must be dug out, and the planks too far-gone must be torn up, thrown away, and replaced. But before the replacement, listen to that shaming sound and tell me, what was it that allowed this rot to take hold? There must be no unanswerable icons, no secret, sunless gardens of privilege. Consider removing the policing power from the university as a step in the right direction - when the university's toy security detail answered to the administration instead of independently of the power-structure which itself was at fault, that, itself, was an obstruction. The police and the university ought to be, in some non-destructive fashion, at odds with each other, if the watchmen are to be properly watched.

But this can't be placed entirely at the feet of faceless bureaucracy. The football program was too beloved of the general public, too protected by sentiment, for a proper sense of shame to make any sort of impression upon those with wickedness brewing rot in their hearts. Sports should not occupy such a ritualized , pseudo-religious niche in the folkways of a healthy society. Is it because there's a lack of public religion in this college environment? Honestly, I don't know - I'm such an agnostic, I'm seriously detached from the religious life of the community. The football game pilgrimage was the one thing that united the increasingly-leftwing university/student community and the middle-of-the-road nonpolitical-sort-of-conservative alumni and county communities outside of the Centre Region townships and the borough.

Where do we find the social discipline to make right what men's crooked natures inevitably make wrong? A scourging may be necessary, some sort of bonfire of our vanities. It's easy enough, for one such as I, who never cared for the football program, to propose or endorse notions of a suspension of that program for a period of years. That's *easy*, and this should be hard - for everyone, not just the football people. What other solutions are on offer?