You will not find a statue of Benedict Arnold at West Point’s Michie Stadium extolling the USMA’s Black Knights football team.
For that matter, I am unaware of any statue or icon dedicated to the former Continental Army general who became synonymous with treason, not even in England with whom he cast his lot in 1779 for 10,000 pounds and a commission as a general in His Majesty’s army.
Few people remember or have any knowledge of Arnold’s record beyond his attempt to deliver the bastion of West Point to the British.
His heroics and leadership not only saved the northern colonies from falling , but his personal valor at Saratoga delivered a punishing defeat to the British, an event instrumental in France’s decision to recognize and support our fledging country.
If Arnold had been anything less than successful in those critical years, we would be speaking bloody English today; ordering grande tea blends at Starbucks, drinking warm beer and tolerating awful cuisine. I won’t even mention what it would have meant to dental care.
Despite preserving the American Revolution, he will always be remembered as a villain, his image relegated to the trash heap of history.
That brings us to 2012 and Joe Paterno.
Coach Paterno’s statue sits in front of Beaver Stadium, with an upraised arm and finger pointing in a classic “we’re number one” pose. The statue has as its backdrop a mural of several Penn State football players following him on to the field.
Inspirational….or, at least it was until recently.
Will keeping it be a slap in the face of the victims?
The Penn State Board of Trustees is reluctant to remove it.
That is unfortunate. Although removing it or the Paterno name from campus facilities cannot reverse the horrific acts, covered up by the school’s administration and the storied coach (according to the independent investigation conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh), it is important to send a message that abuse and molestation cannot be tolerated.
Whether Paterno’s teams won 409 games or 4,009, that achievement went right down the drain as the water in the showers used by Jerry Sandusky when he molested his victims.
Penn State will continue to offer a fine education regardless of what happens to the bronze statue, but its reputation will take longer to recover with each day the Paterno name and image are part of the campus.
Will Penn State alumni stand up and demand that the Board do the right thing? Or will they put football ahead of ethics and morality, as Paterno and others did?