The world is full of interesting ironies. Take the name “Penn State.” Flip the words around and you have “State Penn.”
Will some of Penn State’s administrators end up doing hard time in the state pen? The jury is still out. But in any case, it seems likely that by the time NCAA penalties, canceled sponsorships and ads, lower ticket and merchandise sales, missed bowl games and multi-million-dollar lawsuits have been added up (or, more correctly, subtracted), Penn State may have lost something like a quarter of a billion dollars.
Is there a silver lining inside the very dark cloud? Yes, I believe so. You can bet your bottom dollar that university presidents, boards and athletic directors at major colleges around the United States are taking steps to make sure their institutions don’t suffer the same expensive, ignominious fate. As a result, many innocent children could be safer than they might have been before.
And of course something very similar happened to the Roman Catholic Church. It has been estimated that the Vatican’s child abuse scandals have cost the church around $3 billion. Thus it is also much less likely that rogue priests will prey on innocents with such impunity, in the future. And if they do, chances are greater that when they get caught the jig will be up and the proper authorities will be notified.
And perhaps here in Tennessee — despite our obvious deep divisions — we may also be able to make progress in better directions if we simply choose to proactively put our children first.
The U.S. Supreme Court once upheld an injunction delaying the construction of the TVA’s Tellico dam over a tiny fish, the possibly endangered snail darter. Could fracking in Tennessee be held up over the lives and health of possibly endangered human children?
We didn’t wait to protect the Tennessee snail darter until it was too late. So why wait until Tennessee children are killed by the madness of the NRA and gun-mad Republicans who insist that adults must have the “right” to bear loaded, concealed weapons into restaurants, theaters and parks? Why not sue before Tennessee has its Columbine, its Tucson, its Aurora?
When Stone Age troglodytes try to shut down Planned Parenthood, what about filing lawsuits on behalf of the teen and pre-teen girls who are bound to suffer as a result? And what about also suing in advance on behalf of the unwanted babies who will be forced to be born by the same Neanderthals who insisted on ripping up any remaining safety nets that might have kept them from hitting rock bottom?
When gay children and their parents are discriminated against by the Boy Scouts, perhaps there should be lawsuits filed over their resulting emotional pain.
When Muslim children suffer acts of religious intolerance, why not sue their abusers?
When Tennessee politicians ignore global warming and thus imperil the lives, health and happiness of future generations of Tennesseans, perhaps lawyers should sue to protect them, even before they’re born.
Once we have proof that someone is about to commit an act of treason against our country, do we have to wait for the act to occur, or should we do whatever is necessary to prevent it? If we know that adults are plotting to abuse children, do we have to allow the abuse to take place, or should we prevent it? These are obviously rhetorical questions. So if our elected representatives refuse to act to protect our children, why not let the lawyers and judges take over? Why not start filing lawsuits right and left to proactively protect each child’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Who knows? What presumably stopped Penn State and the Vatican from continuing to allow the abuse of innocent children just might help save us from ourselves, our deep divisions and the incompetence of our politicians. If there is one thing that unites us, surely it is the desire to protect our children.
And so, along with the games of the Olympics, let the lawsuits begin!
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.