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GUEST COMMENTARY: Shocked and disappointed by politics, scandal and injustice

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | 9:52 a.m. CST; updated 8:55 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the spirit of the holiday season I have a gift for you: a freshly minted Herman Cain joke.

Q: Mr. Cain, what about Libya?

A: I never laid a hand on her.

But life isn't all jokes and foolishness. It just seems that way when you're dealing with politics. There are serious issues to be addressed — college football, for example.

Penn State scandal is shocking

The grimmest college scandal in memory has erupted at Penn State, a quiet university deep in the Pennsylvania mountains dedicated to academic excellence and watching football.

One of its most widely respected football figures, Jerry Sandusky — a retired assistant coach of national reputation — has been persuasively accused of being a serial pedophile who used his access to the university and its athletic department to enhance the practice of his perversion.

Worse yet, the entire hierarchy of the school — from head coach to athletic director to president — seems to have turned a blind eye to the situation. For years.

Which would be bad enough if it happened at just any football-first-and-everything-else-be-damned school (of which there are many), but Penn State has long been considered the gold standard of football integrity. It was big-time football the way it should be. Its ancient coach, Joe Paterno, was without rival when it came to reputation.

Now the president and Paterno have been fired, and Paterno's name has been taken off the trophy awarded to conference champions — the football equivalent of being brought before the troops at dress parade and having the epaulets and brass buttons ripped from your uniform.

Not many things shock me anymore, but I confess to being shocked at the Penn State scandal.

Occupy Wall Street not surprising

On another front, I'm not so much shocked as disappointed at the number of people who don't have a clue when it comes to Occupy Wall Street and the rest of the Occupy movement.

Talking heads and editorial writers have looked disapprovingly at the (mostly) young people setting up camp in financial districts around the nation and asked, "What do they want?" Or even, without irony, "Why don't they get a job?"

And that's the point, isn't it? There are no jobs; not the kind the protesters have gone to college and trained for.

Times are hard for new graduates these days. I doubt that their future has been this bleak since the Great Depression. On average, they graduate more than $25,000 in hock, often facing bleak job prospects. Then they look at Wall Street and the big banks and see the very people who gamed this economy into disaster still making millions of dollars a year playing the same games and complaining about taxes.

Walmart sales are down because people are skimping on things like milk and meat. At the same time, Saks Fifth Avenue is selling lots of $1,000 handbags and $2,000 suits.

What do they want, the protesters? They want justice, for openers. They want the kind of society they were promised, one that gives people an equal chance at success if they're willing to work for it.

They don't want a society where the top 1 percent of the population commands more than one-fifth of the nation's income and more than 35 percent of its wealth, a society ruled by a corporate elite whose only religion is greed.

They don't want a society where in tough times the only people asked to make sacrifices are the old, the young and the poor.

More than anything, they want their future back.

It's not a lot to ask, actually, not if we really are the exceptional nation we pretend to be.

OtherWords.org columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.


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Comments

Michael Williams November 29, 2011 | 1:14 p.m.

Kaul says, "They want the kind of society they were promised, one that gives people an equal chance at success if they're willing to work for it."
____________________

I heartily agree. The problem is with the definition of the term "work".

"Work" involves not only lifelong physical labor, it involves lifelong mental labor. That means get yourself educated so you don't make lousy decisions.

Kaul thinks bad things always come from the outside. I say he's wrong; mainly, they come from the inside...meaning from within individual decisions/behaviors/actions. I speculate that 95% of all the bad things that ever happened to me had their origins within me...either recent or, more likely, in the distant past.

Only the remaining 5% was your fault.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush November 29, 2011 | 5:54 p.m.

I think our parents,
DNA, and dumb luck counts
More than five percent.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush November 29, 2011 | 6:17 p.m.

It's always the guy
On top who thinks his success
Was mostly himself.

The same will defend
Corrupt institutions that
Reward fealty.

They bunker down when
Inequality's mentioned.
Thundering, "It's mine!"

So woe to those in
Poverty - it is deserved
Like prosperity.

It hurts too much to
Think it's not your effort that
Gave you your bounty.

We call the poor less
Fortunate, but don't call the
Rich more fortunate.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle November 29, 2011 | 7:02 p.m.

Maybe Daryl Dudley doesn't have such a bad idea after all. But I wonder if people are really paying any attention by the time they get to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance:

...indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for ALL.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 29, 2011 | 7:42 p.m.

D. Fogle - "But I wonder if people are really paying any attention by the time they get to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance:

...indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for ALL."

Me to you, "You seem to have trouble fooling anyone, barring those agreeing that the demise of the United State of America would be a good thing." The quotes seem to fit, IMO.

(Report Comment)

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