What Ever Happened To Courage?

The Penn State child rape scandal raises some questions about what the heck has happened to people.

One of the common questions I keep hearing people ask about the Penn State child rape scandal is how so many people could have stood by and done nothing for so long. Many of those comments center on the person of Mike McQueary, former star Quarterback for Penn State, professional football player for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, and NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores. How could this 28 year old man have witnessed an old man raping a ten year-old boy and, instead of trying to stop it, go back to his office and call his father? (All of this is in the Grand Jury Report [PDF])

It brings to mind a speech that the acclaimed science fiction author Robert A Heinlein gave to the United States Naval Academy in April 1973. Heinlein had attended Annapolis in the early part of the 20th Century and reached the rank of  Lieutenant before being forced to retire when he contracted tuberculosis. Much of his speech focused on Naval Academy tradition and the values Midshipmen are taught, but the end of the speech, which has always impressed me, seems especially applicable to this case:

In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.

One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her. But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman’s foot loose. No luck.

Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free… and the train hit them. The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed – and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself. The husband’s behavior was heroic… but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that’s all we’ll ever know about him.

THIS is how a man dies. This is how a MAN . . . lives!

I think part of the revulsion that people are feeling towards people like McQueary and Paterno and the way they acted in response to information about a horrible crime is the fact that it runs counter to the way we think people should act in that kind of situation, the way we think we would act if the same thing happened to us. The fact that they didn’t act the way they were supposed to leads to the question of whether the values of courage in the face of evil have been passed along to succeeding generations. Sure, there are the service members, the fireman, and the policemen and others who put their lives on the line every day for others, but that’s the job they signed up to do, we expect them to do it.

What about the rest of us, though? Do we still live in an era where some anonymous stranger is willing to give his life in order to try to save someone else? We’d all like to think the answer is yes, and maybe it still is, but the image of a 28 year-old man standing in silence in an athletic facility shower in 2002 tells me that not everyone has learned what it means to be a human being.

Perhaps I’m waxing far too philosophically here. Perhaps McQueary is one man who got caught up in the hagiography of the Penn State football program to the point where he couldn’t even think straight. I hope so.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    No, you’re waxing just fine.

    As a father I can’t stand the idea of a world where grown men or women would stand by and allow my children to be raped. He could have stopped it with a word. McQueary needs to go away and find a hole to live in. The human race no longer requires his presence.

  2. MBunge says:

    I do think you have to make the point that physical and moral courage are two different things. McQueary might not have thought twice about running into a burning building to save a child, only to be paralyzed by the sight of a child being raped by an authority figure.

    On the subject of moral courage, I’m reminded of that moment when it seemed like everyone in Washington DC was waiting to hear what Joe Frickin Lieberman was going to say about the Lewinsky matter. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me, but it sure seemed like everyone was waiting for someone else to be the first person to say “Bill Clinton has to go” and Lieberman was seen as that someone. If he’d gone to the Senate floor and said “We cannot tolerate this”, I think there was a good chance that enough people would have lined up behind him to send Clinton packing. But nobody wanted to be the first one to say it because no one wanted to bear the responsibility for what happened after.

    If people do lack moral courage today, I suspect it’s due to a fear of responsiblity, a fear that isn’t the exclusive property of either liberals or conservatives.

    Mike

  3. doubter4444 says:

    It’s the crux of the whole thing.
    It’s the only thing that matters.

    “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

    You don’t need religion to know that is true.

  4. The only mistake you are making is in trying to generalize too much. They have always been men and women of strong moral character and those who are less than admirable. Human nature isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    As for McQueary, there can be little doubt he was badly shaken by what he saw, but his actions afterwards seem to speak to someone whose primary concern was his career, as it also seemed to be for everyone he spoke to from his father to Joe Paterno to the school’s administrators. Their careers, legacies and futures are now forfeit.

    Since this came out I’ve been trying to keep in mind all the good things Joe Paterno did for a long time and trying to imagine some set of circumstances related to his age or something that would, if not absolve him, at least ameliorate the heinousness of his actions. I can’t do that any longer. As someone noted elsewhere, this may be just be another example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The worship of Joe Paterno and his football program clouded everyone’s vision, including perhaps his own, to just what was going on and how bad it was.

    I’m sure there are lots of lessons here if we choose to learn them.

  5. Dazedandconfused says:

    You are right, but I think Heinlein made that story up. At that time, frogs were done manually right at the site, no remote controls. Getting ones foot stuck in one to that degree is simply not credible.

    I will wait for the whole story to come out on Joe. I think there is a thread of a chance somebody told him that they investigated it and found it completely baseless. The guy who saw it? He is a coward for sure.

  6. Ozark says:

    What about the rest of us, though? Do we still live in an era where some anonymous stranger is willing to give his life in order to try to save someone else? We’d all like to think the answer is yes, and maybe it still is, but the image of a 28 year-old man standing in silence in an athletic facility shower in 2002 tells me that not everyone has learned what it means to be a human being.

    A story…. Many years ago I was in a very bad situation. My wife was s*cking every d*ck on the South side of St.Louis, and ripping off everyone she could for whatever money she could get to feed her drug habit. Me? I was in denial (NO, it is not a river in Egypt)(It is a state of mind in most American cities and suburbs)

    Anyway…. after I could no longer deny the state of affairs (and believe me, I wanted to) I called the MO “Division of Aging” because we had 2 half senile old men living in an apartment….

    You know what? I realize that I am way too tired to explain what happened 30 years ago and that if I did, you still wouldn’t get it. Let me cut thru the bullsh*t…

    30 (25?) some odd years ago I f*cked up (in a sort of Joe Paterno way) Why???? To be honest? Because I wanted to (I did not want to be responsible)

    Like it or not, 99.9% of you MF’ers don’t want to be responsible either.

    Difference between you and me? I had to face my lesser side. You still get to believe you would have acted differently.

    You still get to lie to yourself. I don’t.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of courage. Jim Quinn:

    I have been blind with rage for the last week as I’ve watched the powerful men of Penn State attempt to retain their power and reputations at the expense of truth, honesty, and accepting responsibility for their actions and willful inaction. As I’ve watched this tragedy unfold I was struck by the thought process of rich men in positions of power. They have huge egos and believe they are above the law. They think so highly of themselves they believe they can make the rules and ignore the laws which the little people must follow. They have no moral compass whatsoever. They cannot be shamed. The most despicable behavior by prominent men has been willfully overlooked because these men generate $50 million of profit per year for the university. Their sociopathic desire to protect their reputations and power has led to a scandal of such epic proportions that it will haunt Penn State forever and has permanently damaged the institution.

    This is an institutional cancer that eats away at the fabric of our society. It is not isolated to Penn State. It is a societal sickness that threatens to overwhelm every facet of our lives. There is a constant thread that runs through every incident that comes to light. In 99% of the cases it is men protecting men. Money and greed always trump morality and truth. The exact circumstances can be observed in the priest abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the last five years. Pedophile priests have existed within the Catholic Church for decades. The Penn State situation shows that pedophiles exist everywhere in our society. The bottom line is that they are sick men and need to be locked up and kept away from little boys. There is no more heinous criminal act than a grown man raping a little boy. Anyone who does this is pure evil and must be punished.

    The Catholic Church is a really good analogy.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I did not fill in my whole name.

    tom

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And to clarify….

    It is easy to talk of courage when one has no skin in the game…. Go ahead, put your balls on the line and dare some one to chop them off….

    They will.

  10. @Ron Beasley:

    I heard this conversation today:

    Man to woman: People who commit child sexual abuse should be shot. Just shot, that’s it.

    Woman: No, I don’t think so. They must be tortured first.

  11. Tylerh says:

    I also suspect the story was apocryphal.

    As the train gets close, the solution is obvious:

    Both me stand beside the track PULL with all the strength adrenaline provides.

    Hopefully she’ll (painfully) pop loose from her shoe. In the worst case, she loses a leg and frightening amount of blood, but still has a chance at survival.

    Far better than three dead.

    But story really makes the point, and there are plenty of documented stories like this, so I still applaud Heinlein. He was doing a speech, not a history project.

  12. JKB says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    True, odds are you will be shot, regardless of how morally right. Sooner or later, they will come after you for being strong when they were weak. It is the price.

    But in the long run, you have to live with yourself.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Not knowing your situation, I can’t comment on it, let alone pass judgment.

    In the case of McQueary we have a big, strong adult man who walked away when a child was being raped. He faced no danger. No one was going to shoot him.

    I don’t know how I’ll behave in a dangerous situation. Twice I’ve waded into domestic fights to protect women I didn’t know. Once not too scary, the other one kind of was. I was held up once at gunpoint and barely registered it emotionally — not so much brave as numb. But I’ve never dome anything like go into combat and I wouldn’t even venture a guess because you don’t know until you know.

    But in this case nothing was required of this man but to say, “Stop that.” I’m pretty confident that I could manage that.

  14. @MBunge:

    Is there really a difference between moral and physical courage?

    Physically, I think there’s no doubt that the 28 year-old McQueary could have easily overpowered Sandusky and stopped that rape. Morally, well, I think it’s pretty obvious where he failed.

  15. Terrye says:

    I don’t know the answer myself. Things like this have happened before..people have ignored the pain or need or terror of others. But this case seems so much worse than most.

    I think that if my husband had seen such a thing, he would have kicked that man’s ass. I think I would have tried. I can’t imagine that someone could just walk away.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Is there really a difference between moral and physical courage?

    Yes. Moral courage is far more difficult to maintain than physical courage.

    Physical Courage? Get your ass kicked and move on. Moral courage? Well, now you are laying your life on the line for your children.

    I have stood in the street while my ex’s husband screamed at me and I did nothing. That was physical courage, and easy. I have also looked at my son’s and said,”Your mother is a drunk.” And what is more, I told the DA that. That was moral courage.

    And I owned up to that when my sons confronted me about it.

    God I wish I had shut the F up.

  17. Tano says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You seem to be very disappointed in yourself.

    I wonder why you find it necessary to criticize those of us who maintain a belief that we would do the right thing.

    Perhaps most of us are wrong about what we would end up doing, but a certain self-image is probably a necessary, albeit not sufficient, foundation for doing the right thing.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, I could have done many things, in fact I should have done many tings. The fact that I did not is on me…. The fact that so many others would not have also….

    I repeat, Denial is not a river in Egypyt…..

  19. chewinmule says:

    “If a small group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have their way at a conference this week, pedophiles themselves could play a role in removing pedophilia from the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of mental illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), set to undergo a significant revision by 2013. Critics warn that their success could lead to the decriminalization of pedophilia.”
    May be the folks were just waiting until 2013 hoping maybe Sandusky would be grand fathered in. Ahhhh, the times they are a changing!
    Is Moral Courage even in the dictionary anymore? I know it ain’t all that popular anymore. This proves that even the lionized aren’t all that and then some! Score one for NAMbLA!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. MattT says:

    A generation or two ago, if a guy in the downstairs apartment heard his neighbor above beating his kid, or his wife, he probably turned up the TV. If a kid endured an encounter with someone like Sandusky, he was probably told to stop making up stories. I see not reason to despair, but progress in the fact that the Penn State affair and the abuses in the Catholic Church have recently been brought to light. The latter I’m sure had been going on for hundreds of years, with no intervention or outcry.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tano:

    I am. I should have been perfect. I was not.

    I wonder why you find it necessary to criticize those of us who maintain a belief that we would do the right thing.

    No Tano, I wonder why you think it would be so easy to do the right thing, when you have never been faced with that choice?

  22. chewinmule says:

    @Doug Mataconis: When you reach down inside and there is nothing there, then you go with the flow. Maybe if the undergrad had a Heisman things would have been different. Huh?

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And for the record, the “Right Choice”????? Has a price… We all pay a price.

    I wonder why you find it necessary to criticize those of us who maintain a belief that we would do the right thing.

    and Tano, I wonder why you think you know what the right thing is? I too, thought so. I was wrong. But you go for it. I’ll back you up all the way. You just might be right.

  24. superdestroyer says:

    If the poor graduate assistant (underpaid very assistant coach) calls the police, everything become his word versus the word of a big time assitant coach who runs a big time charity. The graduate student still has his life ruined but Sandusky would have become virtually untouchable.

    The graduate students knew not to get involved since those who get involved usually have their lives ruined.

  25. jan says:

    I think ingrained in most of us is the capacity for heroic courage along with cowardness. Why we tap into one versus the other when we’re called to act during an event seems to be an intrinsic trait. You never know, though, what that trait will reveal until a circumstance calls us to task.

    On our 10th wedding anniversary my husband and I were going out to lunch to celebrate. On our way, while stopping for a light, we both saw two teenage girls attacking an elderly man, hitting him and knocking him to the ground. He looked helpless and was bleeding. My husband quickly pulled over to the curb, I jumped out and started dragging one girl off the man. The other girl ran, and my husband took off after her. We both reacted instinctively, never even talking to each other about what we thought we should do. The police arrived, my husband caught the girl, walking her back to the corner, and the older man was treated for his injuries.

    Afterwards, I realized, in this busy intersection, no one else had stopped to offer even their assistance. I vaguely remember ‘looks’ from people slowing up to gawk..some driver must have called the police…and one woman briefly pulled over yelling out the window something like, ‘good of you to help.’ But, everyone else opted for being voyeurs rather than participants. And, I think that’s where the default reaction in many people lies. They’re not ‘bad’ people. but must simply lack whatever internal resources it takes to become personally involved, perhaps risking their own well being in the process. Even my own Mom was highly critical that I physically confronted the girls, saying that I could have been hurt, or contracted ‘something’ because of all the blood. So, I don’t think there’s necessarily a genetic component to any of this.

    Maybe courage to act is derived from one’s soul, or is abstractly cultivated from life experiences or core beliefs…..But, I do believe that what deactivates courage is ‘fear:’ fear to stand out or stand up for something or someone; fear of death; fear of life; fear of being embarrassed or wrong; fear of being inconvenienced. Fear paralyzes people, as well as their good judgement, and maybe that’s a partial piece of what happened at Penn State.

  26. A voice from another precinct says:

    @superdestroyer: Even in Mc Quaeary’s time, a guy who had an NFL career before coming back to become a coach should not have been “poor” in any meaningful sense of the word. Give us a break. Even if he were fired by Penn State, he would have found some other school that wanted the fame of having a former NFL star on their coaching staff.

  27. John Burgess says:

    @superdestroyer: If the undergrad student–who had at least two years of pro NFL football beneath his belt–had decked the coach and taken the kid out of the room and called the cops, this would have ended years ago.

    But apparently, he only had NFL experience beneath his belt.

  28. CB says:

    Sure, there are the service members, the fireman, and the policemen and others who put their lives on the line every day for others, but that’s the job they signed up to do, we expect them to do it.

    i would say that much of the problem is that the vast majority of us are never asked to make true sacrifice. to simply expect others to do, be it fight a war or feed the poor, should never be enough.

  29. Tano says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I made no claim that doing the right thing is easy, nor that I know what the right thing is in any specific case. I merely objected to your original post in which you confessed to a certain failure, but then insisted that 99.9% of the rest of us MFers were also doomed to failure, and that if we thought differently, we must be lying to ourselves.

    I don’t find that to be very helpful. I recognize it may be true, but accepting and assuming it is true probably dooms it to become true. The only hope for actually doing the right thing, whatever that may be, is to expect if of yourself, and then hope that you can make it happen.

  30. Parah Salin says:

    @Tano: He’s projecting guilt on to others so he can have company. Must feel like crap, he can never forget.

    I’ve put my job on the line before by making a moral choice. My boss was screwing 3 4 different women at the same time,
    He had the whole company of about 10 covering for his affairs, telling lies about where he was or sneaking, holding them off as he sneaked one out the back door. He’d take on woman’s photo off the desk and pull anothers out of the drawer to replace it with, blowing off the dusk with a big overdrawn breath. It was a real production and when I first saw him do i laughed out loud.
    Eventually he became engaged and brought in his fiance to work there.
    I became friends with the fiance and she’d stay late at night to talk and after a year or so she’d cry about the trouble she was having. She was seeing a psychiatrist because he told her she was going crazy with jealousy for no reason or imagining things. Finally I told her, and she was shocked. She kept coming back and asking me if I was absolutely sure. It was a trading house and all emails had to be saved per S.E.C requirements and I had access to the account, so I printed off a half a dozen emails with replies. What I did was illegal and ethically wrong as a network admin, but it was morally right.

    That guy might have been in shock for a minute, but beyond that, he could have called someone for immediate help sorting out what should be done but leaving that child there with the molester he had just seen abusing that boy is morally reprehensible.

    As far as the story about the railroad tracks, the same thing happend in india a few years ago, but it was with elephants. A baby was caught in the tracks. It wiped out 3 or 4 adults and the baby when the train hit. They didn’t waiver. the moral of this story is don’t compare these creeps to animals.

  31. Parah Salin says:

    @Parah Salin:
    Correction: 3 to 4 women, not 34 women.

  32. mike says:

    Maybe I am just naive – maybe it is b/c I am in the Army and work around people who would have put Sandusky on the ground (with pleasure and a couple of good kicks when no one was looking) and called the cops w/o hesitation if they had seen what he saw in the shower – but the avg person would have called the cops and done the right thing in this case. McQueary has demonstrated he is a weak (morally) POS. He has to look at himself and live with himself, knowing he could have stopped so much damage so long ago just by taking a tough stand and making sure that the right people were notified. He didn’t. Most people would have. We shouldn’t lump all of society together and say “where have all the good people gone” b/c of the failings of a few.

  33. Kit says:

    I’m afraid this is not waxing philosophical at all but rather muddle headed. Courage is a virtue, not a value. We no more pass it on than we do wisdom. Did McQueary’s fear get the best of him or was it that “he couldn’t even think straight?” On the battlefield, where we most treasure courage, we might despise cowards but I’ve never heard it said that they have not “learned what it means to be a human being.”

    Even the point about the nameless stranger with, presumably, no ties to the world can hardly be said to shed any light on this situation. These people at Penn State knew each other and certainly felt the bonds of loyalty pushing them in conflicting directions, bonds to one another, to the institution, and to their families. Loyalty is often closely associated with courage. When scandals erupt in the military, courage typically is not at fault but rather how the bonds of brotherhood twist decent men into carrying out horrors.

    I myself make NO claims on what actually happened. I rather suspect that it was more complicated than implied here.

    Courage, clear-headedness, basic decency–this post touches on all of them but itself lacks clearheadedness about how they relate.

  34. JKB says:

    Look, Ozarkhillbilly is right, you don’t know how you’ll act until you are confronted with the moral dilemma. If you accept that, you’ll be better prepared to handle the situation.

    This wasn’t a physical courage situation, it was a moral courage situation. Doing the right thing would have damaged the football program, the university and Paterno, as we see now. We also see that Paterno and the university would have gone after McCleary for his betrayal. It wouldn’t be direct, but sideways. Poor reviews, poor references, but he would have been force out and damaged for betraying the collective.

    All of this weighs on the moral choice and the right choice usually leaves you in the cold, alone and just waiting for the retaliation. But you have the inner knowledge you did what was right. Now, that this had come out, he will get all the bad with the knowledge that he was morally weak and left a child to be abused.

    By the way, I read, I believe in the grand jury report, that both Sandusky and the child saw McCleary when we walked in on them.

  35. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds: Your post reminded me of an incident from my college days. Some other girl in my girlfriend’s apartment building grabbed us in the parking lot, begging me to come with her to get her stuff from one of the apartments. I’m not proud of this, but I refused – probably because I didn’t feel that my 130-pound self was much of a match for whoever was behind that door.

    Well, my girlfriend and I went upstairs, and soon enough heard some commotion downstairs. Fearing for my safety but determined to do something, I went down and knocked on the door. The sounds stopped, and soon the door was opened and the girl came out with her stuff. The person who opened and then closed the door stayed completely out-of-view. Although my heart was beating hard, I finally realized who the bigger coward was.

    Knowing this, I hope I can force myself to make the right decision the first time, next time.

  36. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Is there really a difference between moral and physical courage?”

    Look no further than those brave men who stormed the beaches at Normandy. It’s hard to find a greater example of physical courage. Yet, how many of those men had the moral courage to stand up against the injustices and inequalities that existed in their own homeland?

    The thing often separating moral and physical courage is that moral cowardice is far easier to obscure and rationalize. I’m sure the folks at Politico who think they’ve courageously exposed Herman Cain’s record of alleged sexual harassment have all sorts of reasons why Dick Cheney’s alleged record of war crimes wasn’t something they needed to concern themselves with at al.

    Mike

  37. raf says:

    @chewinmule: Is Moral Courage even in the dictionary anymore?

    I’m not sure “moral” is in the dictionary any more.

  38. george says:

    Yes. Moral courage is far more difficult to maintain than physical courage.

    Physical Courage? Get your ass kicked and move on. Moral courage? Well, now you are laying your life on the line for your children.

    Not so sure about that. I’ve been on several climbs (mountains) where people froze in the face of physical fear – including one where their freezing put a whole team’s life on the line (froze half way up a traverse in a dangerous place), and one where most of a group couldn’t bring themselves to follow the path of an avalanche which had just buried a group of cross country skiers, though those skiers lives depended upon being found and dug up immediately. The risk was real, we had to cross another potential slip slope to get to them (a few of us did, we managed to find and dig out two, three others weren’t so lucky – but might have been if everyone had joined in. I still get incredibly sad thinking about it, though it happened decades ago when I was still in college).

    Physical courage isn’t about getting your ass kicked and moving on, its about risking a high probability of death to help others. And I’ve seen fewer people displaying it than I’ve seen displaying moral courage … though the need for physical courage is much lower now than it was in the past unless you’re a soldier, cop or firefighter.

  39. Moderate Mom says:

    What I find so difficult to understand in this whole mess is the fact that McQueary not only didn’t do anything, but also that he didn’t say anything. He just turned around and walked out of the showers, went to his office and called his father. I’m pretty sure that if I walked in on something like that, without thinking, my automatic response would be to scream “What the hell are you doing?”

  40. Barb Hartwell says:

    I am in no way defending this guy, but we are told from when we are little kids not to get involved. We tell our kids stop tattling, mind your own business. When we get a little older, we are told only suckers get involved. Then company policy tells us we must go through the chain of command. We have seen just how much this has done to our society, the biggest on 911. We need to rethink how we deal with situations My son got suspended for defending a kid in a wheel-chair The principal said he was too aggressive. He push the kid down I told him I was proud of him. He went on to become a Marine and very good father and I am still very proud.

    He needs to go, He will never recover his respect. there

  41. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The longer I live, the more I agree with Hemingway, courage is simply acting with grace under pressure. Physical, moral, it’s the same thing.

    I don’t like Heinleins story not simplyt because it appears to be made up, but because it’s wrong-headed, and on several levels. Heroism is distinct from courage, and it’s really about some strange notion that if the girl must die, then by golly, we must pointlessly die with her to be “honorable”, and pretending that the people today are not up to his made-up mythical notion of courage. Hell, they should have had the courage to break her leg and let the train take her foot as well.

    Grace under pressure. A lot of people imagine that only in terms of heroic actions. It’s a lot more than that. It’s far easier to display while in tight spots with adrenalin flowing. The real struggle is to summon it up for the little stuff that makes us or breaks us as people in the real world, because one act isn’t doesn’t mean shit. I see a lot of people get angry at stuff. Slights, someone getting angry with us, getting cut off in traffic, just silly little shit. Anger doesn’t happen unless we are afraid.

    Grace under pressure. Don’t sweat the big shit, because just becoming a decent human being is about all most of us can struggle mightily for, and if you achieve it, you have achieved a lot. If something big pops up, you will do fine, because you have learned to control your fear.

  42. James H says:

    I think there’s a lot of lack of courage going around here. Here’s what leaps out at me, though. This 28-year-old grad student called his dad and others for advice, and he was essentially told “blah blah blah … if you decide to report it.” It seems to me that if somebody is in genuine turmoil and turns to you for advice, you should tell him in no uncertain terms what the right thing is … and then tell him he should do it. Just saying “do what you think is best” is a copout.

  43. The Florida Masochist says:

    Parah Salin writes-

    My boss was screwing 3 4 different women at the same time

    Oh you worked for former Congressman Tim Mahoney?

  44. The Florida Masochist says:

    Seriously, there are other people like Mike McQueary around

    It was shocking enough when six high school football players were accused of sodomizing six younger teammates with a broomstick during training camp. But the scandal was raised to a whole new level when the coaches were accused of turning a blind eye to the hazing.

    *****

    According to a state police report, an assistant coach told the other coaches during training camp “that some sort of hazing incident involving broomsticks was happening.” Another coach walked into a cabin to see “a player on his stomach on the ground, with his legs spread open,” while a teammate held a broomstick, the police report said. The coach told the players to “cut it out” and the group broke up.

    In that case there was at least a few adults with moral courage to blow the whistle. When the football team arrived back from camp there were police waiting for them. The coaching staff got fired.

  45. Eric Florack says:

    What happened to courage?
    Lawyers.. and but not limited to lawsuits…. and the press and the fear of both. .

  46. Eric Florack says:

    Well, those and the fear of being called a homophobe…. but of course the lawyers and lawsuits enter into that.

  47. The Florida Masochist says:

    Oh and here’s another lovely story

    Parents and students at one New Mexico high school are alarmed by recent reports of an alleged sexual hazing incident that has prompted a criminal investigation.

    Four Valencia High School football players have been suspended as New Mexico State police investigate reports that these seniors may have bullied and sexually hazed up to three underclassman.

    The problem could be bigger than PSU. A certain mentality that thinks sexual assault is just fine and dandy.

  48. @Eric Florack:

    Don’t be ridiculous. Raping a child is not homosexuality, it is raping a child.

  49. Eric Florack says:

    Doug, I think you’re going to find that argument increasingly hard to support, from a legal perspective. The domino effect, as one moral bulwark after after falls to legal challenges.) And don’t tell me that the lack of courage you correctly note isn’t caused at least partly by the direction we;ve been traveling, morally, the last 40 years or so. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the initial reponse 40 years back would have been to kick the moron’s ass. After 40 years of moving away from that morality, we now see what we get.

  50. MBunge says:

    @Eric Florack: “As has been pointed out elsewhere, the initial reponse 40 years back would have been to kick the moron’s ass.”

    Speaking from a personal ass-kicking you received?

    Mike

  51. mike says:

    @Eric Florack: Ah yes, the blame the lawyers and lawsuits response. I was wondering when that tired and inaccurate argument would pop up. Can’t figure out how it could possibly apply to the PSU case; perhaps could enlighten us.

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tano: Tano, agreed, unfortunately, most times, before one has acted, one can not tell what is the right course of action, while at the end it is all too easy.

    I have stood at the end. I have looked back. I have said, “I should have done this.” But at the time of decision I did that. And what is more, I had to deal with the consequences.

    I say only this: It ain’t so easy.

    Courage is not measured by what you do…. It is measured by how you stand by what you did.

  53. An Interested Party says:

    Doug, I think you’re going to find that argument increasingly hard to support, from a legal perspective. The domino effect, as one moral bulwark after after falls to legal challenges.)

    “The domino effect”? Please…so you’re saying that legal rights for homosexuals will lead to the slippery slope of legalizing polygamy, bestiality, and pedophilia? Or you’re saying homosexuality is the same as those other things? Don’t tell us that you are really that stupid…it’s quite amusing when cases like this come up that some people want to throw out the homosexual card, considering how the overwhelming majority of vile scum like Sandusky are heterosexually married men who only engage in male-to-male physical contact when they are raping children…

  54. george says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Courage is not measured by what you do…. It is measured by how you stand by what you did.

    I don’t know, I think often that just measures people’s ability to rationalize. Courage is the quality of doing the right thing in the face of fear. That can be moral or physical fear, and I’m not sure one is more common than the other. In Montreal a couple of decades back a gun man went into the university and killed fourteen women and one male engineering students, targeting the women. He went from room to room looking for them. They interviewed some of the survivors afterwards, all of whom (male and female) just laid on the floor or hid rather than trying to stop him. When asked why no one tried to stop him, the response was invariably the same – they’d been too terrified to do anything.

    I don’t see that as a criticism by the way, no one knows how they’d react until in the situation … something one of the survivors pointed out. Would a different generation have reacted differently? I’d guess probably so if we’re talking several centuries ago, when people regularly fought duels to the death over minor slights. Life is more precious now, perhaps because it is easier.

  55. Eric Florack says:

    @MBunge: Gee, that’s helpful.

    “The domino effect”? Please…so you’re saying that legal rights for homosexuals will lead to the slippery slope of legalizing polygamy, bestiality, and pedophilia?

    Say what you will about the likes of Pat Robertson, I will likely agree. At the same time, such legal challenges are already being mounted…. quietly.

    The problem, of course is that legality has supplanted morality.’

    Can’t figure out how it could possibly apply to the PSU case; perhaps could enlighten us.

    Well, you enlighten us. Doug is quite correct in that courage seems have have been lacking in the person who walked in on that scene. You tell us… what conditions in society would have caused this lack of response?

    I suggest the fear of legal and social reprisals against the accuser is the largest of the motivations. Can you suggest anything other than these?

  56. jan says:

    @george:

    Courage is the quality of doing the right thing in the face of fear.

    That’s a good way to phrase it. In reality fear should aid a person in their reaction, by increasing adrenaline as well as their acute focus. However, oftentimes, while their body awareness is heightened for action, minds must take over with all the bad things that could happen if they get involved, hence the paralysis.

    Also, I sometimes wonder how much familiarity with danger it might take to be able to face fear and courageously act. In our modern day and age, especially here in the US, our environment has become so sanitized. Things considered harmful are usually legislated out of existence. There is even consideration now of doing away with the chords on blinds because of the strangling possibilities for young children. How many times in one’s own lifetime do they even experience any so-called critical moments, unless they are in the military?

  57. mike says:

    @Eric Florack: yes, this person is simply a weak, sad individual who put the good of a football team in front of the welfare of a child. To blame our entire legal system is a bit far fetched. People report crimes every day; the police respond, investigate and charge people. To indict an entire system b/c of the weaknesses of a few is a bit of a stretch; convenient but a stretch.

  58. george says:

    @jan:

    Also, I sometimes wonder how much familiarity with danger it might take to be able to face fear and courageously act. In our modern day and age, especially here in the US, our environment has become so sanitized. Things considered harmful are usually legislated out of existence.

    I think that’s a good point, at least for a large portion of our society.

  59. Barry says:

    @A voice from another precinct: “Even if he were fired by Penn State, he would have found some other school that wanted the fame of having a former NFL star on their coaching staff. ”

    No way in f-ing hell. Even if the allegations were kept quiet by the police (very likely, considering what we know now), the Word would get around, that McQueary was a ‘traitor’.

  60. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “Yet, how many of those men had the moral courage to stand up against the injustices and inequalities that existed in their own homeland?”

    A lot. Please note that the Civil Rights movement kicked into high gear about a decade afterwards; I’ve felt that this wasn’t a coincidence.

  61. Eric Florack says:

    yes, this person is simply a weak, sad individual who put the good of a football team in front of the welfare of a child. To blame our entire legal system is a bit far fetched. People report crimes every day; the police respond, investigate and charge people. To indict an entire system b/c of the weaknesses of a few is a bit of a stretch; convenient but a stretch.

    I don’t think so. There are other factors at work here as well, I simply pointed out a couple of them. I tend to agree that McQueary tended to show some weakness. But I’m not sure the blame ends there.

    This seems like an aside, but watch closely: I want you to consider my comments as regards Michael Jackson, a few days ago:

    Certainly, we can see by his whack-job behavior, that Jackson was well beyond reason for a lot of years, but that point alone does not absolve him of his irresponsibility toward his health and the consequences of it. That irresponsibility was essentially reinforced by his star power. Let’s be honest enough to say that after the string of hits in the 80’s and early 90’s, the guy could spend an entire CD making artificial fart noises and nothing else, and his fans would be buying the things, talking about how talented he was, and that he was breaking new artistic ground, rather than simply breaking wind… and that brings me to the second point; Jackson is being held as innocent by his fans, since he was the star and could do no wrong.

    It seems a lock sure bet to me that Sandusky had gotten to that level of star power at PSU. So, people would have some serious difficulty trusting a report of child abuse from such a person. (And should I need to remind anyone, that Jackson himself had a thing for small boys?) McQueary looked at the situation and recognized his far smaller… and easily replaceable… role at PSU, and balked at throwing away what he’d achived… because he doubted… and perhaps correctly… that anything would ever be done about what he saw. So, an appeal to a trusted authority figure… a desperate cry for help. It also seems reasonable that McQuery held Sandusky to be a personal star as well. At least, that part is a possibility.

    And yet, we know from some of the discussions that Sandusky and his sexual proclivities were something of a running joke.

    There is something about human nature that when presented with something so out of bounds, we have difficulty accepting it, even when it’s right in our face. Remember, as an example, that a number of the people that are ready to string McQuery up, are the same people that were making excuses for Bill Clinton, and continue to make excuses for Barney Frank.

    There’s going to be a lot of calls for governmental intervention in this, and I suspect there would be regardless of calls for it or not. But I have my doubts that such investigations will put an end to such situations. How many investigations were there of Michael Jackson’s , as an example? It seems to me that government is particularly impotant (you should pardon the expression in this context ) to deal with these matters , given the levels on which they occur.