The front page headlines this morning screamed “Bo knew”. The story, which had already broken on the TV news shows was about testimony given by one of Bo’s sons – Matt – and several former U of M football players. In their testimony they recounted being sexually assaulted by former team doctor Robert Anderson. The most damning of course was that of Matt Schembechler, who recounted that he was only 10 yeas old when first assaulted by Anderson. When he told his dad what had happened, fully expecting that BO would go after the doctor and get hi fired, he was instead reprimanded and told to “toughen up” by Bo.
There was no satisfactory answer in the stories to the question of why Schembechler reacted this way and continued to fail to do anything about Anderson in the face of other accusations of sexual assaults made by other player on his teams. We will never know the answer to those questions.
I have posted here before about the baseless esteem in which we hold famous people, whether they are in athletics, entertainment, or politics. Whatever their fame or position is based upon we somehow give them a pass on things that we would otherwise be more apt to hold them accountable for. We believe that their fame somehow also makes them good people who make good life decisions. We are all to often proven wrong in those thoughts.
One has only to look back over the past few years to find case after case of fallen hero’s that we once held in great esteem, The sexual assault cases of Anderson and Larry Nassar leap immediately to mind; however, joining Bo in sex-oriented scandal there is also Joe Paterno at Penn State, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby from the entertainment world and financier Jeffery Epstein. The list goes on and on.
The breach of trust that we place in people who have achieved great fame, wealth or power was also proven in the recent convictions of UAW Presidents – Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Of course, the unions have a storied history of corruption that took some of the surprise off those revelations.
So, what are we to make of all of this? Should we become hardened cynics who assume that anyone that appears to be successful must have somehow cheated or gamed the system? Are we to look askance at all in the professions of these mis-doers? Must we become always on guard and mistrusting of people? I think not. For the most part I really believe that people are not all out to somehow do me harm or trick me into some mistake. I will make the exception that the lady who keeps calling me about extending the warranty on a car that I no longer own may not be working in my best interest and hanging up is an OK response to her calls.
There is nothing wrong with being cautious, but it would be wrong to start every interaction with someone else with the assumption that they are somehow bad or out to put something over on me. One can miss the opportunity to get to know a person who may turn out to be a good friend if they start with the assumption that the other person is a crook or a bad actor. That is also the roadblock that prejudices put in the way of interpersonal relationships. Starting out in fear or loathing is not the way to begin a relationship.
So, it’s OK to be surprised or shocked when we learn about the misdeeds of a person that you had admired. Better that you should be saddened, not for yourself, but for them. It is also OK to find forgiveness in your heart for them. Maybe you will not forget the disappointment that they have caused you, but you must find room for forgiveness and move on.
Recall the words of Pope Francis and ask yourself the question that he posed when asked about his position on gays seeking the Lord – “Who am I to judge?” The disgrace of the revelations that may have already come out about these famous people who have breached our trust is enough. There is nothing to be gained by piling on. Yes, be surprised and saddened, but then forgive and move on.