Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Corruption of Power

I’m continuously amazed by the random confluence of real world events and aspects of my life and those close to me. Monday I wrote about Gilda’s link to Magic Johnson’s announcement 20 years ago that he was HIV+. Gilda had been part of a research study back then that showed the HIV virus could not be transmitted via sweat, meaning Johnson and other players need not worry about close body contact during a basketball game.

Today, as I was riding around listening to sports radio talk show hosts comment on the horrific alleged child sex abuse incidents at Penn State University and their belief that long-time coach Joe Paterno should resign or be fired before this Saturday’s game because of his moral failure to pursue the charges against his long-time assistant and friend Jerry Sandusky, I realized the team’s next game is against the University of Nebraska. Ellie’s fiancé, Donny, is from Omaha. He and his family are BIG Cornhusker fans.

As I write this the university board of trustees has just decided Paterno cannot retire at season’s end under his own terms. They voted his immediate dismissal. If I had a vote, I’d have cast it for immediate termination.

While details of Sandusky’s alleged child molestations have come out, including eye witness accounts, it is fascinating to note the parallel reporting of the alleged sexual bias charges leveled against Herman Cain. It might have been plausible to think one woman could be delusional, or motivated by self-interest or revenge for a perceived slight. But now that five women have become part of the record, it is more plausible that Cain is a serial abuser. Perhaps he doesn’t see his behavior as such. After all, anyone who can say he was joking about electrocuting illegal aliens as they try to come across our border, might not realize the impact his words and actions have. As the head of the powerful National Restaurant Association, and before that as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he possessed power over these women.

Power. As the saying goes, it corrupts. Paterno at Penn State was considered a king, the most powerful man in Pennsylvania. Cain had power, the power to provide employment, or take it away. What does it say about Cain that he does not remember any of the incidents raised by the five women, that he had difficulty recalling settlements in several of the cases, that he couldn’t remember acknowledging the settlements some 10 years ago when he first sought elective office? What does it say about Paterno for not alerting police to the alleged monstrous behavior of his subordinate? Have we learned nothing from the scandals within the Catholic Church, that we should immediately report alleged abusive acts to the police?

Here’s another sign of how deeply troubled and wrong-centered we are as a country: Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News tonight devoted 23 seconds to Tuesday’s elections in Mississippi and Ohio, results that have wide implications on national politics. In Mississippi, voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution that would have set the beginning of life at fertilization. In Ohio, voters rejected efforts by the Republican governor to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees.

While those two stories got a combined 23 seconds of air time, Pelley devoted 20 seconds to news that Eddie Murphy had resigned as host of next year’s Academy Awards telecast, a story more appropriate to Entertainment Tonight than the evening news.

The news just gets dumber and dumber.