I’ve tried my hardest to not care about the current events developing around the Penn State Campus the past week. Until today, it was pretty easy. Ignorant of the whole picture, it was easy to simply classify it as “another college sports scandal,” a.k.a. “things near the very bottom of my to-care-about list.”
But today, the Grand Jury report of the unfolding case against Gerald Sandusky was released, and at the sharing by a good handful of friends, I clicked the link, and began to read.
I began to read, and despite the growing sting of bile building in my stomach, I could not stop. It wasn’t out of some sick fascination, like slowing while passing an overturned vehicle or watching the report of a train derailed. It was that I could not understand suddenly who we were, and I needed desperately to understand.
I could not understand how these things could happen, and people could know about these things happening, and these people did not consider beyond themselves what is good and right and true and what should have been done, which was everything you can do to save those children.
I’ve been struggling the past few hours now whether to vouch this report. I’ve been struggling that people might see it as baiting Web traffic. I’ve been struggling that it doesn’t “align with the mission of Vouched Books.”
For the past few hours, I’ve been swallowing at the lump of confusion and cold dread that swelled up at my center, feeling completely powerless.
In her recent essay at The Rumpus, Roxane Gay wrote:
“Language is at once exhilarating and impossible. We have innumerable words and phrases but all too often, they don’t fully represent what they should. They allude or approximate meaning but rarely do they begin to encompass the depth of experience.”
She wrote about the cold, anemic language of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Troy Davis, the 23 words that said at their core, “We are going to allow you to die.”
The Sandusky Grand Jury report, as you would expect a report to be, was similarly cold, similarly official and sterile of any emotion or pathos or earnest morality beyond the rule of law.
But, I’m not sure I have ever been more affected by a piece of writing. I’m not sure I’ve ever read something that highlights so well what we are capable of. It recounts in stark and horrific detail the stories of 8 known victims of Gerald Sandusky. It recounts who was made aware of the occurrences, and what little was done about them over the past decade.
I’m vouching the Grand Jury report, because I believe it is an important and necessary thing to read. It is not literature in the classic sense. It is not beautiful, nor is it “a good read.” But, it is necessary.
Literature at its best shows us ourselves as real and as true as possible in our glory and our horror. This report does exactly that. Whether we like it or not, this report is a part of our literature now, the events in it a part of our history, a part of what we are as a whole humanity. We are capable of this.
We are capable, too, of so much more.
I once wrote that I started Vouched Books because literature saved me as a child. I wanted to push a literature that I felt could save others. I believe this is that sort of literature, by showing us what we do not want to be, similar to how my step-father showed me.
So, I’m vouching this report, because it’s what I can do. It may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s what I can do.
Reading this report, it’s easy to feel powerless. It is always easiest to feel powerless.
But we are not that. We are remarkably capable. We are capable of the kinds of viles and horrors outlined in that report, true. But we are also capable of equally kind and compassionate and beautiful things.
We can be so much more than who we are today.