Joe Paterno did good things for one of my sons, a kid born with what we call in correct parlance "Down syndrome."
I am grateful for the attention shown to Greg at Special Olympics summer games held at Penn State. The iconic coach Paterno and his wife Sue came to the evening dances and stayed late, shooing away the press and even the parents to spend their time talking and joking with the athletes, including Greg. They did more than lend their names; they put themselves at the athletes' disposal.
From what I have read, I am among tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of parents, who had been grateful to Joe Paterno for everything from his donations to the Penn State library (in the millions) to his stern-father approach to sons as players to his charitable work.
Paterno helped Greg.
But Greg, now 34, would have survived without Joe Paterno's presence at those dances. His life had been enriched, sure; but fundamentally, he would have been pretty much who he is today had those visits not occurred.
What can be said by the parents of the victims - 11 or more, we'll never know, it could be dozens - of Jerry Sandusky's sexual assaults?
Based on what we know, those victims did survive.
But their lives have been brutally, indelibly, savagely changed by the sadistic assaults by Sandusky, a former PSU assistant coach who was very good at football - and a huge bear of a man against whose assaults slim young kids, early-teen or pre-teen, could only endure the nightmarish "Is this really happening to me?" torture.
Poignantly, Paterno said he wished, in hindsight, that he had done more to forestall Sandusky's continued predatory assaults, using Penn State, its football program, its facilities, its showers as his hunting grounds. But he didn't.
Paterno claimed he didn't understand what it was that Sandusky had done, because he didn't fully grasp the concept of guys and rape. C'mon. It's even in the movies. Paterno dealt with players who committed all sorts of crimes during his tenure. Rape, heterosexual or same-gender, is all too common.
Paterno died, unable to present his side of the story in the wake of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. So do we condemn Paterno and take Freeh at his word?
We can't do with Freeh what we did with Paterno. We can't make Freeh the saint, as we canonized Paterno.
We're doing that, most of us, taking Freeh's report as gospel. We forget that in 2001, Freeh resigned as FBI director under fire for, among other things, fouling up the FBI investigation into the suicide-or-slaughter of David Koresh and his religiously fanatical followers in an FBI assault and fire in Waco, Texas.
We know that Freeh is fallible, something we haven't wanted to admit about Paterno, even though Penn State alumni freely called for his ouster on several occasions - when his teams weren't winning.
Based on Freeh's report, we're judging Paterno.
Sadly, at this juncture, it appears that the judgment against Paterno will in fact be a condemnation.
He helped thousands.
But those 11 or more young kids ... by his inaction, his decision to not take immediate drastic action to halt Sandusky's predation, he enabled Sandusky to continue to prey.
I can't balance that. Not yet. I don't have a set of scales that shows me me how to balance it.
I'm a parent, of five other kids besides Greg, and a grandparent of 16 other kids.
I like it when someone famous helps any of my children or grandchildren.
But I'm also someone who endured sexual abuse as a child. No details; that's private, except for this:
If a huge bear of a sexual predator were to slam one of my kids or grandkids up against a wall in a shower, I don't "imagine" how the kid would feel. I remember. I have a really good concept about how I would then feel about that rapist and anyone who could have stopped him but didn't. I don't want to finish that thought. Down that dark path lie things like revenge and vigilantism.
I also know a bit of history. Hitler pulled 1930s Germany out of starvation, depression and misery. Mussolini made Italy's trains run on time. Stalin led Russia to defeat Hitler. Mao cleansed 1950s China of opium addiction. All good things. We do not honor Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or Mao. Their good-things/bad-things ratios don't balance out.
Some good things counterbalance some bad things. The druggie who gets "clean" in prison and goes on to make life better for handicapped kids might be balanced - except by the parents of the passenger who died in his car on a drug-fueled ride to a violent crash that led to his imprisonment.
Some bad things are just not balanceable, e.g., Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao.
Sandusky is not balanceable. Sure, he did some good things. Irrelevant.
I'm still trying to read that balancing scale. It keeps going in and out of focus.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.