In May of 2009, as President Barack Obama prepared to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, he let something terrible slip–something that could threaten the very fabric of our civilization! He would try and pick a new judge for our highest court that possessed “empathy,” or the ability to identify ”œwith people’s hopes and struggles” when making decisions that would intimately affect their lives.
In other words, slightly different than how Justice Clarence Thomas does it, which generally involves applying lessons learned from all-expenses covered, first-class corporate speaking gigs and serial viewing of the wacky antics of Long Dong Silver.
Predictably, right wingers from Senator Orrin Hatch to former Republican National Committee Chair (and lobbyist for every destructive interest in existence) Ed Gillespie were just beside themselves, hissy-fitting at the outrageous notion that someone who actually cares about people might become a sitting justice on the High Court.
It is this degradation of American culture since the Reagan Years–on steroids in our current Citizens United Era as corporations have become people (and were almost granted zygote status in Mississippi!)–that says the only healthy emotions are the ones that highlight one’s personal greed and lack of compassion for others. This is the cultural sickness that has been on full display for all its misanthropy this past week.
The most egregious example occurred in University Park, Pennsylvania, with the growing and nausea-inducing scandal engulfing Penn State University. No, our culture didn’t create the pedophilia of former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Sadly, this has been with us since the dawn of time.
But the greed of a big college football program and the fortune and fame it creates allowed it to go on for years. This certainly played a defining role to decisions made by everyone from an assistant coach who witnessed Sandusky’s anally raping a 10-year old in the shower to the lack of action by the university’s president to the post-2002 Rick-Perry-memory hole of the sainted (now) former coach Joe Paterno.
All of them spent at least a decade, perhaps closer to 15 years, covering up the behavior of a serial-child rapist. One who used their reputations and facilities to both locate his victims and commit his crimes.
For these men in positions of power, “greed was good,” a lesson learned by the lunkheaded Penn State students who chose to “riot” Wednesday evening upon news of Paterno’s firing by the Penn State University Board by turning over a car, breaking windows and performing other acts of mass stupidity. For them, being able to party hardy post-victory and continue the cult of Paterno was more important than the lives of potential peers violently victimized by a beast.
The personal responsibility touted by these protectors, and in particular Joe Paterno–rock-ribbed Republican friend of the Bushs and former Pennsylvania Senator turned presidential candidate Rick Santorum–was no match for the avarice their politics and personal-belief system would seem to espouse. The Pennsvlvania right winger, who sponsored the Republican-registered Sandusky for the Congressional Angels in Adoption” award, based on the non-profit he founded to provide care for foster children (see: target them), was still defending Paterno, last we heard.
So in case you’re scoring at home, to Santorum being gay is terrible, because homosexuality is just like “pedophilia.” But if the person performing or covering up child rape is a friend, pedophilia’s a-ok. So does that mean Santorum supports gay rights–as long as the non-straight in question is a friend of his?
This has been a another edition of Deep Thoughts with Rick Santorum.
Speaking of deep thoughts, the same big money created Santorum’s debate mate, avatar of the right-wing greed culture and a man who thinks “right of return” has something to do with sending back a pizza because it took longer than 30 minutes to arrive–Herman Cain. His existence in this race is courtesy of those Libertarian, Iran investors known affectionately as the Koch Brothers.
The fact that he too is a sexual predator is of no particular importance, because what he has done to women pales in comparison to what he could do for them and their big-money buddies with tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation and other items in the Norquist goody bag.
A philosopher that conservatives once believed in, Edmund Burke, famously said that “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” For too many at Penn State and among the Herman Cain express train, just doing nothing would be a step up.
Follow me on Twitter @cliffschecter
This column was first published at Al Jazeera English