|Mike McQueary (red hair) alongside Joe Paterno.|
Part of me can't help but feel sorry for McQueary who seems to be increasingly swirling alone at the center of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. His life has been utterly derailed, and it's likely that his conscience was forever scarred from the moment he left that shower room, all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or more correctly, all because of what he didn't do when he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As far as what happens next, I'm torn. Mike McQueary did not sexually abuse kids; he witnessed the molestation of a young boy by a 58 year-old man. Mike McQueary didn't commit the horrific act, nor did he even choose the circumstances of its discovery. In the face of an unimaginably hellish moment, Mike McQueary didn't do the right thing, but he did do something. Still, I can't get past the fact that he was there. And he didn't stop it.
In his Slate magazine article about McQueary, Josh Levin has perhaps best captured the feelings of so many of us. "In the end, it's possible to comprehend Mike McQueary's actions, but it is impossible to rationalize them."
McQueary's long-term future at Penn State has not yet been announced, and there are reasonable arguments to be made in favor of not punishing the original whistleblower, beyond the likely internal anguish and awful public rebuke he is suffering now. Though he had the opportunity to unlock an escape hatch out of this nightmare, a luxury that was certainly not afforded to the boys who were so brutally molested, Mike McQueary is in some way a secondary victim of the awful crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky. Whatever is decided by the university or by McQueary himself, the road ahead will no doubt be long and difficult for him.