Monday, September 30, 2013

Observations on Penn State 9.30

Something about Penn State has been on my mind for the past few weeks that in a way relates to our current political mess. One of this country's, maybe the world's, biggest problems is that some of us have become so isolated in our ideological cocoons that we talk over, more likely yell over, each other. There is no room for honest debate or that most heinous of things, compromise.

I mentioned before that John Amaechi, a 1994 graduate of Penn State, had been named the Grand Marshall for this year's homecoming. Amaechi is also a former member of the NBA who after retiring announced he was gay. Ever since the homecoming announcement two small but vocal groups have criticized the decision. The first group is made up of the usual bigoted homophobes who for the most part choose to remain anonymous. They don't concern me because, as the saying goes, haters are going to hate.

The second group, made up of alumni, does concern me because they show how the times we live are beginning to effect even the most close knit communities. There is a group of angry Penn State alumni that, for lack of a better term, have become known as 'Penn State truthers.' These alumni don't hate Amaechi because he is gay but because of statements he had made in the days after the Sandusky scandal first broke. Amaechi said that he was personally ashamed of the situation and openly regretted ever having anything to do with Sandusky's Second Mile charity. Since the homecoming announcement Amaechi has received racist and homophobic e-mails and twitter messages and has considered not attending homecoming at all. John Amaechi is one of the Penn State graduates I most admire and I find saddening that he is now being attacked by some of his fellow graduates.

Ryan Jones, senior editor of The Penn Stater, wrote about the situation and put what I was thinking into words.

"The past two years have provided a harsh lesson on how easy it is for others to hold the actions of a few against an entire community. We've all heard countless references to 'Penn State’s guilt,' as if an institution can do anything, and as if such careless language doesn't have repercussions for everyone affiliated with it. We know this; we've lived it.

Too often now, such generalizations are directed at fellow members of this community. Alumni think this; students don’t understand that. Our internal discourse has taken on the worst aspects of our national political discourse: so much shouting, so little listening. No matter what side you’re on, you can see where that’s gotten us. If it continues, we only hurt Penn State. Which is to say, we only hurt ourselves."