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Of all the things we've read about the scandal at Penn State, nothing has touched us as deeply as this article by Michael Weinreb, who grew up in State College and knew the children of many of the principals in the case.

For people who grew up around schools like Duke, or UNC, or Vandy or any school which at least pretends to have standards, we can relate to his description of, well, almost paradise.  What could be happier?  You spend your childhood going to games and seeing these wonderful heroes go forth.  It's a beautiful thing.

Until, of course, it's not, as they're finding out at Penn State, to their cost.

It's very difficult to see these people for what they are, because they have to fool the grownups as well as the children.

We spoke the other day of a predator who struggled with his criminality and who, from prison, tried to make some amends by explaining how he did it, how he conned people into trusting him.

On one occasion, he mowed a neighbor's lawn and refused to take payment. When the neighbor insisted on doing something, he said maybe she could hire him as a babysitter and pay him for that.

She did, and you can guess the rest.

His main advice, which is common sense really, is that predators are found close to their prey.  It makes perfect sense; the problem is that you have to look at everyone near your children as possible predators.  It's unfair, but you have to do it. You trust people with your children's innocence at your own peril, and theirs too.

Most of the sympathy in the story goes of course to the kids and most likely to Sandusky's wife who we presume did not fully understand her husband's nature, which he surely hid from her too, but we have a certain amount for SI's Jack McCallum as well.  He posted an article called Sandusky fooled many -- including me, and when you look back on the original article, while there's no reason to think he should have caught on, or to condemn him for missing what a whole lot of people missed, there may have been some clues. Consider the pull quotes below considering what is alleged now:

  • After the Sanduskys and their 9-year-old son, Jerry, moved in, they persuaded the town fathers to keep Brownson House going. That was back in 1953, and they have been there ever since. This goes a long way toward explaining why their son, now the Penn State football team's defensive coordinator, is, at 38, the founder of The Second Mile, a charitable organization that recently opened a group home for six troubled boys in the State College, Pa. area.
  • Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, who couldn't have children of their own, adopted a son in 1969. Since then they have adopted four more children—current ages five through 19—and have helped raise three foster children. For a time they were a host family each summer for children placed by the Fresh Air Fund of New York City. "After we had taken in some foster children," says Dottie, "we saw the opportunities that some kids just hadn't had. But we'd gotten to the point where we couldn't take in any more, so Jerry started thinking about starting a group home. The book seemed like a good opportunity to get it off the ground."
  • Houseparents were hired last spring, and The Second Mile should have its full complement of six boys by early winter.
  • It hasn't bothered Sandusky that The Second Mile thus far has kept him from leaving Penn State. "Many people have talked to me about hiring him," says Paterno, "but Jerry's been reluctant to talk to them because of all the commitments he has in this area."
  • "It's the way he's always been," says Sandusky's mother, Evie. "I guess it's his nature that he's never quite happy unless he's helping somebody else."

Given what we know about pedophiles now, it wouldn't be at all surprising to learn that someone might set up a foundation with the explicit intention of procuring victims.   In retrospect, it's just chilling, just as his adopting children in retrospect is frightening, and one wonders what might have happened at the Brownson House. It may indeed "[go] a long way toward explaining why their son, now the Penn State football team's defensive coordinator, is, at 38, the founder of The Second Mile..." Molesters were often  molested as children.

Could it be that the tragic arc of Sandusky's life is that he was abused at the Brownson House and set up a program so that he could have a similar stable of victims? Did he relive his own molestation?

What he is accused of doing to those boys (and what they say he did too) is unforgivable, but even monsters come from somewhere.  If it turns out his own childhood was similar, we can have pity on the child, but the child becomes a man and there is no pity for one who inflicts his own tragedy on others.

In one story which we can't find now, he went to speak to a mother of one of his victims and said (this is not an exact quote) that he'd like forgiveness but he knew he wouldn't be getting it from her and that he wished he was dead.

We actually believe that.  If all this turns out to be true, here is a man who was highly regarded, who had a great many things going for him, but who hid this shameful, loathsome secret.  He knows exactly what he is, and if it happened to him, too, surely he knows what he has done to those boys.

Most everyone is revolted by this story, us included, but it's probably fair to say that Sandusky's emotional life is vastly more tumultuous than anyone, including his wife, could possibly suspect.  We certainly don't wish it on him, but don't be surprised if he attempts to take his own life in the coming days. His world has crashed in on him and there is no more escaping the darkness and the shame.

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