WHAT HAPPENED TO JOE PATERNO AND WHAT CAN WE LEARN? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

November 2011 — Penn State University fired Joe Paterno for his part in the Sandusky child abuse scandal coverup.
January 2, 2012 — Joe Paterno died at the age of 85 of lung cancer, stripped of all wins from 1998 to 2011.

Back then, just wearing a PSU sweatshirt was a conflict. How can you support a school that let Sandusky continue to use the football facilities where he seduced and sexually abused young boys?

Now it’s two and a half years later. Bill O’Brien did a remarkable job as head football coach and his successor James Franklin looks like he’ll do even better. Penn State has done everything that the NCAA has demanded and more. They want to change forever the culture that would allow a monster to live amongst them.

What have we learned?

Life goes on. The earth continues to rotate and the sun rises every morning. No one is irreplaceable. We grieve. We rage. We fear. We cry. One day we again feel joy.

As a psychiatrist I’ve learned that we are remarkably resilient. Tragedy strikes, but it doesn’t need to continue to bring us to our knees. We can battle adversity, bullying, emotional illness, poor parenting, physical illness, loss, and catastrophe by learning from the experience.

Maybe the NCAA will rescind a portion of PSU’s punishment? Maybe they won’t. Their decision doesn’t need to affect how we act.

We can be stronger because the real hero is inside each of us. An idealized hero, whose flaws are overlooked or minimized, is not as necessary as you think. We don’t have to stand on the sidelines and watch evil happen. Individually, we have the power to personally do what’s right.

“WE ARE” is really just a combination of “I AM”.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

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