To the alumni, friends and family who want the statue of Joe Paterno to come down: I welcome that discussion with people who care as deeply about Penn State as I do, but this Fan Post is not really addressed to you. As I say below, my feeling is that the statue should probably stay, but I realize that there are strong arguments for its removal. If we decide to take the statue down, you would hear no great dissent from me.
What follows are a few hundred words representing one feeling that has been building within me for, oh, about a week. I am tired, so very, very tired of people who have never set foot on the University Park campus unilaterally deciding what is best for my alma mater. Whether it is shutting down the football program, shutting up shop and becoming a Pitt satellite campus or, the topic of this rant Fan Post: what to do about the Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium; it is for us (alumni, current students, faculty or anyone who really loves Penn State) to decide and no one else.
I have mixed feelings on the statue, but I tend to favor leaving the statue in place. I believe that Joe Paterno still stands for great things and his accomplishments (graduating real student athletes, leading Penn State into the Big 10, a library with his name on it, etc.) can not be scrubbed from Penn State’s history with a single gesture meant to appease the angry hoards at the gates. I also think that the statue would serve as a strong reminder of the colossal mismanagement of the Sandusky crimes. It could inspire real conversations about abuse and speaking to power which, sadly, don’t happen often enough. It is not in our best interest to forget this entire sordid ordeal. It will only be worth going through hell if we can learn from it.
I understand that insiders and outsiders alike have strong reasons for wanting to see the statue removed. They see it as a symbol of a larger problem, a love affair with football that allowed unspeakable crimes to go unreported. I get that. My question to the outsiders who want to remove the statue is: why do you care so much? I find certain statues/monuments that exist in other locations offensive or laughable, but I don’t care whether they remain in place or not, because I don’t see them. Or I’ve seen them once and have no plans to return (e.g., Stone Mountain in Georgia or the statue of the devil in a park in Madrid). I don’t go on a crusade, because it doesn’t impact me in a meaningful way. I simply think less of the people who hold that person, event or idea dear. That is what the Christine Brennan’s of the world don’t understand, that you can be troubled by something but not necessarily demand that others be unable to take joy, pride or simple fond remembrance from the very same thing. This does not have to be a black or white issue.
To the outsiders, if the statue remains: laugh at us, scorn us, come with offensive signs to put in front of Paterno so that you have crazy photos to share on Facebook; but don’t deface or dismantle our history. And if it comes down, then it should be our choice. We decide.