Emily, Marc, Ayonfe and Katie’s presentation struck a bit of a nerve with me (in a good way) as those of you in class may have noticed. They discussed the new imagined communities – not just nations anymore, but diasporas, telenovela fans, gamers, and members of religious groups, regional areas, etc. Bonus points for keeping it interesting, engaging, and interactive… (hint, hint, Prof. Hayden).
In class I reflected on the sports world as an imagined community of its own, and then mentioned one of the more awful effects we’ve seen of that community in recent news – the Penn State scandal. I discussed the apparent separation this imagined community caused between some fans and what could be called American society’s morals (or generally accepted human morals, perhaps?). I brought up the example of Shayna’s Facebook share of a Jon Stewart clip showing the rioting and protests that followed the ouster of the team’s head coach following allegations that he didn’t do enough after hearing about the alleged child sexual abuse committed by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The clip includes footage of protesters indignant over their beloved head coach having suffered such an unfortunate fate. Stewart’s reaction – and mine – was disbelief that this was THIS was the cause of the anger and sense of betrayal being protested. Not, say, the possible rape of young children.
Here's a link to the video: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-10-2011/penn-state-riots
(Nota bene: Because I need to keep believing in some amount of good in my fellow humans, I'll trust this is not the majority view of the university or its students, and I do not mean to make an example of athletics in general or of Penn State by bringing this up. But even treating it, as I’d like to be clear is my intent, as the example of a select few individuals caught on camera – it boggles the mind how any person can be so blinded by their imagined community that they ignore or defend what society considers to be grave and egregious mismanagement of an unspeakable crime.)
I keep writing other things and realizing I've gotten too personal, but this is an issue that cuts me too close to my own heart to bear. I honestly can't say much more. I just want to ask that we take a moment to recognize this with horror. That we think about how the cases that are reported are only the tip of the iceberg, that we condemn the fact that utter mismanagement of allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are likely the norm rather than the exception. That we realize many of these unspeakable acts are occurring in places that don't have a highly developed HR department and a set reporting structure like Penn State does. And that we reflect upon how our own imagined communities affect our choices.