An Open Letter to Geraldo Rivera

by admin | November 14th, 2011

Your observations concerning the Penn State scandal – among other things, to the effect that protesting students should feel shame for the values they reflected – were not only extraordinarily sensitive but expressive of a value system that should be affirmed from every corner of our nation.

Sports generally have displaced common sense, contact with substantive reality, and noble values, in the thinking and emotions of millions in our culture.

When a game, any game, is valued above human dignity, the most basic moral principles, and compassion for our fellowman – above all the most vulnerable among us – we have regressed to a form of moral and rational primitivism that exposes our callousness and selfishness for what they truly are.

As your words impliedly suggested, the Penn State scandal stripped away the façade, the pretense, the meaninglessness, of hypocritical declarations of our “values” and exposed an ugly reality.

Your indictment of the greed driving it all – greed on the part of the university administration, the trustees, the staff and anyone benefiting from the flow of hard cash produced by the Penn State sports program – was also telling, not simply as an expose’ of this specific segment of our society, nor of countless colleges and universities across the nation, but more broadly of a decadent value system endemic to so much of the culture itself.

Human beings are readily and frequently – but always with discreet “deniability” – sacrificed on the altar of this obsessive materialism.  And the elevation of truly noble values to the forefront of the American consciousness rarely occurs, except on a typically hypocritical level that says one thing when the reality is quite another.

As a young lawyer for the State of Tennessee, I was responsible for taking legal action to protect children who were sexually abused.  The appalling realities these duties revealed to me about the depravity of many “respectable” people in our society, the callousness of many others who knew or had reason to know but did nothing, and the dark side of a culture that prefers to see itself as “moral”, “caring”, “just”, and even “Christian”, were a shock.

The innocent victims were – and always are – emotionally maimed for life, no matter how much we presume to “fix” them through our “counseling”, “therapy” and “professional care” – once again with the arrogance typical of a society that believes so completely in its power and righteousness.

But the need has always been for something else, something unsophisticated – absolute honesty, a profound and pervasive sense that morality is more than a façade or a compartment of life but a way of living life itself, and, above all, love – the genuine, unselfish devotion to the welfare of others.

Yet none of this truly characterizes much that takes place in our society.  This is exposed many times, but we do not see. We choose not to see.

On the same day that the 2008 Super Bowl was broadcast, a Special Operations unit stormed an al Qaeda safehouse in Iraq.  This al Qaeda cell had developed their own specialty: strapping explosives to the bodies of mentally limited women, sending them into crowds and remotely detonating them.

Two of the Special Operations unit, SEALS Nathan Hardy and Michael Koch, died from a fusillade of bullets.

Over the following days, the Super Bowl game was discussed in the media ad infinitum.  The plays were replayed, the performance of the players critiqued, and the winning team, especially its quarterback, feted as if they had single handedly won the war in Iraq.

To this day, millions of Americans know the names of many of the players, but very few ever recall hearing the names Nathan Hardy or Michael Koch.

Theirs was – it is absurd that we even need to declare it – a great and ultimate sacrifice for the well-being of Western civilization.  But, as any honest realist could have anticipated, it was eclipsed by a child’s game, the making of millions of dollars, a torrent of shallow thoughts, banal words, and frivolous images.

Penn State and the 2008 Super Bowl are not singular or isolated events. Nor do they simply expose a perverse set of values.

They reflect a society that is supremely out of touch with reality.

In so many respects, adolescence for Americans has been extended to the grave.

Our children become the victims – sometimes of the bestial perverse lusts of adults, but always of a twisted, callous view of life that elevates and lauds the shallow and the meaningless while leaving the noble, the sensitive, and the exalted struggling for breath in the dust.

Thank you Geraldo for your very public expression of the painful and shameful truth.

Ivy Scarborough

Thank you, Ivy, for the excellent column in today’s Jackson Sun. I hope that through the good offices of Gannett it might be circulated abroad a far wider area than Tennessee.

As I reflected on the essay the thought occurred that this type of intellect should be coming from church pulpits. I have not heard such an effort in a long, long time.

Our country is not only in financial trouble; we are near peril. Perhaps one of the reasons, and there are many complex ones, is that generally accepted norms of personal responsibility, behavior, community values, et al, have practically vanished. So, your words are more essential than ever.

It could be that people are dimly aware of how much trouble we are in and, thus, sports worship has become a substitute narcotic.

Kind regards and appreciation,
Ken Marston

About Ivy Scarborough

Ivy Scarborough is a writer, commentator, former adjunct professor, television, radio and print commentator, radio program host, professional mediator, and lawyer.

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