When we awoke last Friday morning to the news of the senseless massacre in Aurora, Colorado, we could be forgiven for at least temporarily losing hope of a just world. Where is the fairness in a six-year-old girl going to see a movie and losing her life? What kind of metaphysical sick joke is it for a woman who only weeks ago survived an attack from a crazed gunman in a Canadian mall, to come home and lose her life in a theater? But if we just wait a bit, if we have patience and faith in the give and take that is life, we see glimmers of justice shine through.
Such was the case Monday when the NCAA imposed death by a thousand cuts on the football program at Penn State University. The university, the silent incubator of a disgusting child abuse scandal, was fined $60 million by the NCAA. They have been forbidden to compete in post-season games for the next four years, making their ranking among other college teams completely irrelevant. They received severe scholarship cuts and their victories from 1998 to 2011 have been vacated.
Perhaps the most fitting punishment of all did not come from the NCAA and was symbolic in nature. The statue of the deceased head of the football program, Joe Paterno was taken down. In the wake of his passing, this hero to many was revealed to be a coward who knowingly covered up the crimes of his colleague Jerry Sandusky. Those who silently allow abuse to happen come in a close second to the actual perpetrators when it comes to depravity. Paterno prioritized the wealth and prestige of his program over the safety of innocent children.
His family has protested the NCAA ruling and the removal of his statue. Their lack of contrition and humility only underscores how unfair it is that Paterno did not live to see his program demolished and his reputation destroyed. There is some consolation that he is receiving in death the dishonor he deserved in life. That is some measure of justice.