“Ron, threw his sandwich in the trash.” “Jessie, took the dime off the counter.” “Mommy, Adam is teasing the cat again.”
Perhaps as a young child, you can recall “tattle-telling” on one of your siblings. Telling whatever wrong they had done was every child’s goal as it was sure to at least draw attention from whatever wrongdoing you were involved in and point the finger at a different target. But the same joy of getting your brother or sister into trouble just with a few words became less admirable in elementary school when “nobody liked a tattle-tell” and fitting in became more important than exposing wrongdoing.
We learned early and often that those who “told” often faced unpleasant consequences. You may not be picked to play on a team or you might not be invited to the birthday party because you made it a point to disclosure someone’s indiscretion. But often it didn’t end there. I recently read Kathyrn Bolkovac‘s story, Whistleblower about her time as an employee of Dyncorp, an agency contracted by the United Nations to develop an International Police Task Force to train police in the war torn areas of Bosnia. Kathy witnessed her fellow contractors whose job it was to restore order and regulation taking part in prostitution and becoming regular participants at thbrothels where young girls were sold and trafficked. Shocked by the casual reactions of some of her comrades, she soon discovered that any attempts to report this behavior ended up in the trash rather than under investigation. Realizing some Dyncorp employees were participating in the very crimes they were supposed to be policing, Bolkovac took her evidence to superiors. Initially she was demoted from her position and eventually fired when those who she blew the whistle on feared for their own careers. After more than a decade of fighting to keep the facts in the forefront she won a lawsuit against Dyncorp and exposed her story through her book and recent movie. Dyncorp continues to operate in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. Mexico border. Kathy continues to be shunned from employment by some private security contractors because of her role in bringing down some of Dyncorp’s own.
I grew up just a few hours away from Penn State,a sprawling thriving campus known for turning out some of Pennsylvania’s best, Happy Valley seemed to be its own kingdom complete with its “ruler” loved by all, the amazing Joe Paterno. He was coach for as long as I could recall football existing and his infamous pace along the sidelines of his Nittany Lion team often seemed like a doting father determined to settle for nothing but the best for his “sons.” Joe was unassuming and dedicated. He loved Penn State and Penn State loved Joe and I believed like many others he would have loved to breathe his last on the football field. Joe was Penn State but Joe was no Kathyrn Bolkovac.
Joe did know the rules of football, but he forgot the rules of life; sometimes you have to blow the whistle and face the outcome. Sometimes it is not enough to simply tell someone else and hope they run with the ball. Sometimes you have to show them how. Sometimes you have to pick up the ball and run even if it means getting tackled and losing the game. Joe did share his concern about his defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky with his superior just as Kathyrn Bolkovac did but Joe then went on doing what Joe did best…coaching his beloved Nittany Lions. He never really blew the whistle, he only handed it over for someone else to do so. It doesn’t make it a crime or does it? Joe is nearly 85 years old. His legacy should have been the brightest light for the campus. He won’t be forgotten for his incredible football career but he will certainly be remembered for not blowing the whistle, not following up, not making inquiries and not confronting the person who used the weight room with his team about his concerns.How can anyone work alongside of someone they know has harmed the very individuals who have looked up to them with respect and admiration, and simply continue to conduct “business as usual”?
Is it our job to tattle, to exposure, to uncover or to overturn as Christians? I don’t necessarily think so. But I do think we have a moral responsibilityto go beyond simply giving our whistle to someone else to blow and hope they choose to do what we cannot. I do believe we need to make certain that wrongdoing is not only addressed but especially when it comes to children that it is aggressively and proactively met with determination to prevent any further harm. Fifteen years of this behavior going on means no one blew the whistle whether a colleague, a coach, or even a law enforcement officer.
Whether it involves ostracism, outrage or even loss of support from those who don’t think there is a moral responsibility to pursue justice, each Christian must be prepared to blow that whistle. Yes, it is far easier to look away, pass the buck and delegate it as another’s job, but when we work, train, coach, raise, teach or are involved with children as a protective figure, we have the responsibility to do more than simply pass the whistle. We have the responsibility to blow it loudly until everyone knows that an infraction has occurred and a penalty need to be given.
JoePa was a generous old man who loved his university, his team and his town but Joe “tattled” when he should have been blowing a whistle and while many of my contemporaries and their children are “Penn State”, I am afraid that Joe as well as several others failed to signal, “GAME OVER”
It’s too late now to return the innocence to children who lost theirs at the hands of people who should have been trusted. There is no stopping the clock or replaying the down. There are instances daily when someone needs to put the whistle in their mouth and blow loudly.Being a Christian does not absolve us from but rather insists that we lead by example.
What are we as Christians choosing to disregard and look the other way about today while hoping someone else will blow our whistle?