We, Americans tend to seek idols. We even have a reality show titled just that—American Idol. We seek them in form of what we perceive as gifted, blessed individuals; ones who possess the talent and skills we ourselves wish we had. We exalt them to nearly irreproachable heights; turn them into not only heroes but into demigods. Like Aaron of the Old Testament fame, we create a golden calf and worship it to no end.  Especially with regard to our sports’ institutions. Case in point—Penn State.

But what happens when that golden calf is felled? What happens when it is revealed for what it truly is—a substitute for substance, an imitation, an illusion. More aptly, what happens to us, to our moral compass when a golden calf is felled?

From all accounts, Penn State was not only the picture-perfect, textbook model for strategic excellence on the field; it was also synonymous with “honor” off the field and in one’s character. It was the stellar pinnacle of grace that others aspired to achieve.

In reality it had a darker twin soul for Penn State is also now considered a fortress enshrouded in secrecy and depravity, the house that housed a cancer, one that not only turned a deaf ear and blind eye, but one that allegedly protected a child molester.  This atrocity occurred for at least a decade and the repercussions of it increase exponentially every day.

Had Penn State not been the legacy and creation of Joe Paterno, JoePa, Saint Joe, and his iron-clad protective fist that protected that heritage, had this occurred at any other campus, undoubtedly the matter of the abuse would’ve been halted years ago.

What allowed this to occur? What made Penn State different? Why?

Simple. Penn State football was America’s Golden Calf du jour.  It was beyond reproach.  And ultimately the creators of that legend and those charged with protecting it at all costs, bought into the myth itself. The first problem with false idols, however, is that they all eventually fall.

The second problem is that by elevating them, we are able to discount our personal responsibly and self-worth. It’s becomes easier to look the other way, to not become involved. It becomes the norm to be inactive rather than act during times of conflict or conscience. It absolves us not only of personal responsibility but of having to become a leader as opposed to what most seek to be—a follower. It’s easier to just go with the flow rather than try to rock the tide.  Why take a stand if one is standing on internal shaky ground? Or worse, why should we take a stand if no one else cares let alone voices opposition or concern?

This brings me to integrity. To character. One’s character is defined by one’s ability to respond in times of crisis, conflict, confusion and mitigating circumstances. If one is in connection with spirit, one responds accordingly –by placing oneself into another’s shoes.  If one dwells in a connection with spirit—in all things and at all times—one would never walk away from another in a dire situation. One would never become part of a mass cover-up intended to sweep it all away.  And more importantly, one would never be able to commit any act that would harm another.

The lesson we need to sift in the grains of sand and find like a lost nugget of gold in all of this is that instead of creating golden calves that we not only worship but also symbolize all that we wish we ourselves contained, we need to find the golden nugget of connection with spirit in ourselves. For then we won’t need false idols or exalted gods, be it individuals or institutions. We will instead see every living aspect of creation as a reflection and part of that which is what we call God.

And if we could all do this, then there is no way in hell that we would as a society, as an institution, as a human ever let another hurt another, most of all not an innocent defenseless child.  We would protect that child, that being, that reflection of light and love at all costs.

But according to the reports this is precisely what happened. For the most part, everyone and all averted their eyes and turned their backs on what was occurring. They let it become someone else’s problem. Or worse, they ignored it.

The irony is—that it took a youth, whose childhood innocence was betrayed and robbed from him by one whom he considered a mentor, and his astute mother who listened to her spirit and the spirit of her child to expose a pedophile—a decade-plus pedophile who was as protected by his external network as he was by his arrogance of his own personal power. It took the voice of a victim, who is now in my mind a hero, to bring this all to light.

Reminds me of the parable of David and Goliath.

Reportedly “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is stickered on Sandusky’s garage door at his home in State College, Pa. I inferred this to mean that he perceives himself as God. Perhaps he should replace this. The parables of The Golden Calf and David and Goliath come to mind, for it seems certain that this is how history will ultimately record this tale but with a 21st century twist.

The twist? It took a young adult, who was abused as a child to sling that proverbial rock from the slingshot to fell not only a Goliath who was protected by all the king’s horses and all the king’s men of Penn State Football and the Paterno legacy but also to slay one of America’s Golden Calves—the illusion of Penn State Football as a pillar of honor. And by doing so, this young adult undoubtedly has accomplished that which his peers and ones in the know never did for him. He has set the wheels in motion that will permanently prevent other innocent children from being sexually assaulted by the very man who sexually assaulted him. He took a stand so that others could be protected and spared pain.  A courtesy none extended to him.

That makes him both a hero and an example of what it means to live in integrity with spirit. And that is what we should aspire to achieve.


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