In college, I watched Boondock Saints far too frequently. Within that movie is a quote that I would imagine the Boondock Saints writers gleaned from a Biblical verse, or a Chinese Proverb: "Now we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men." I thought about this idea – the danger of indifference – as I learned the gut wrenching details of the Penn State scandal.
There is no doubt that, if the allegations against Sandusky are true, Sandusky is an evil, evil man. Joe Paterno is not an evil man but he is certainly a man that showed indifference when dealing with this particular evil. That is the type of individual that might be the most dangerous – that’s the type of inaction we must fear the most. That is why Joe Paterno needed to leave. The danger of indifference is that it maintains the status quo.
Evil has a tendency to die out in the face of action. Evil empires – Gaddafi, Egypt, Pol Pot in Cambodia – fail and they fall. Evil people are jailed, killed, or changed when confronted by good people. It is the inaction of good men, of good people, of good institutions in the face of evil that allows that evil to continue.
Maintenance of the status quo, particularly with these types of allegations, is not acceptable. This is too common with child molestation allegations. The Catholic Church has exhibited carelessness in moving accused priests amongst parishes. Other institutions respond to allegations with disbelief, rather than investigations or change. That cannot happen.
It’s easy for good people to keep their head down, do what’s right for themselves, their family, their church and the people they know. It is incredibly hard to stand up to evil when that evil is coming from a friend, a colleague, or a person you felt you could trust. But that’s what morality is all about. It’s about doing the difficult thing even though it is difficult.
For six decades, Joe Pa’ taught, trained, and led young men. For decades, Joe was a prime example of the type of person we as a society expect to do the difficult but right thing when faced with something like what Sandusky did. He is someone that the average person expects to do more than the average thing. He is someone we expect to stand up to and confront evil. He failed. The decision by the Board of Trustees to fire Joe Paterno is absolutely the correct decision.