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The verdict in the molestation trial of Jerry Sandusky is in: Guilty.

I read Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel’s article just after breakfast. His previous articles about the case have been fair and shown no bias, which in itself marks him as an excellent journalist, particularly in the sports universe, which often rushed to the defense of its heroes and legends when their worthiness is challenged. With this article, it was as if Mr. Wetzel had let a dam burst. There is no mistaking his personal feelings about this case. And I admire him for expressing them.

I am glad that Sandusky’s victims have found some justice. What happened to them can never be undone, and has left permanent scars but perhaps this gives them an opportunity to live somewhat more peacefully with those scars, knowing their stories have been told, and believed. They have been vindicated.

My own reaction to this verdict has fascinated me. This man is guilty. And yet, somehow, when I read the verdict, I felt a strum of guilt, sorrow, and doubt in myself. Like my childhood self remembering how I must have been mistaken about what was happening, how I should respect and pity my abuser, how it was me that was crazy, not him – not an old grandfatherly figure.  Shit.

This has stirred up a lot of stuff for me. How we protect our abusers by our silence, and how we are mentally manipulated by them so that the concept of right and wrong is twisted into something like a cheap candelabra pulled from the ruins of an incredibly hot fire.

I am not one to revel in the misfortunes of others, even when they brought those misfortunes – and this guilty verdict – upon themselves. Perhaps I should find more peace in justice. Perhaps part of my own issue is that my abuser died before I (or anyone else) could confront him. And his sins died with him, except in the minds and souls of those others (and I’m sure there were other, not just me) that he abused. There was no justice there.

I guess I will have to think on this some more.

I originally wrote the post below about Dottie Sandusky on November 10, 2011, and it stirred up a small hornet’s nest of controversy – people saying that I was defending Dottie Sandusky, that I was being unfair to the victims, that I was a narrow-minded ass and an idiot. Well, as I maintained during those debates, we are all entitled to our opinion, and I stand by that belief.

As the Jerry Sandusky trial is wrapping up, and Dottie Sandusky has testified in defense of her husband, the feelings I had when I originally wrote this post have risen to the surface of my consciousness again.  On a rational and clinical level, I understand the titanic depths of denial thought patterns in a situation like this. However, having followed the testimony of the victims, I have a somewhat increased sense of disappointment, outrage, and childlike bewilderment about this kind of denial. Not only does it minimize the victims’ experiences, it feels like a desperate act of self-preservation on the part of a woman who sees her world crumbling and will do anything to try to save it, regardless of the cost. Wouldn’t we all? I don’t know. It depends on our individual strength of character and moral courage.

As a childhood victim of a molester, I saw the denial that my parents experienced. Were they culpable?  My child’s mind thought so – because I expressed in every way I could that I did not want to be around my molester – every way except telling them what was going on. I was too embarrassed, too ashamed, and too confused. Which sounds a lot like what Sandusky’s victims said about themselves and which is now enabling a clever defense attorney to call their testimony into question, in a large part because those feelings made them hold back the truth for so long.

I know what I think is right in this case, and perhaps it is colored by my own experience.  But so be it.  It takes true courage to admit to being a victim and not spend your life living as one.

November 10, 2011: Thinking of Dottie Sandusky

I don’t follow sports. I don’t have any connections at Penn State. I don’t even know how I became aware in the last several days of the atrocious acts that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky committed on who knows how many young boys over the past 20 years. My heart aches for the victims. I know a little about how they feel. I remember being a victim myself.

But in all this publicity, the perpetrator hasn’t spoken. He’s free on a reasonable amount of bail. What’s he doing? Spending a lot of time with lawyers, obviously, and supporters, certainly. Note that I did not make the totally inappropriate remark about athletic supporters – oh wait, I just did. He can’t be strolling around Happy Valley with his head held high. Can he? Or can he truly be secluding himself in his home, with his wife of heaven knows how many years? Can he really? Which brings us to the point of my post.

As my heart aches for Sandusky’s young victims, it aches for his wife. What must this woman be feeling? Shame, anger, disbelief, rage, humiliation, shock, nausea, betrayal, bewilderment, devastation are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. What do you do when suddenly you discover that the man you married and loved and helped all these years is a person you don’t even know? And someone you would consider a monster if you did not know them?

It must be impossible for her to believe it, despite the evidence. And I know that, at this point, she is looking at every moment of their life together and wondering. Did she really know and just turn a blind eye? Did she miss all the signs? Does this fact make x,y, and z make sense now? How could she have been so gullible? Such a fool?

These are the things she is thinking privately. She may not voice these kinds of thoughts to anyone. And barely even to herself. To friends and family, I imagine she is still displaying the stong, supportive wife-face she has worn for years. The face that says, “I don’t believe a word of this, and I am standing by my man.” She has perhaps raged at her husband – or perhaps not. She’s not of an era when women did that, for any cause.

People have asked, “How could she have not known? It had to have been obvious, or at least suspicious.” But no, it is entirely possible that she did not know, did not see, did not believe. Sociopaths – which is what child molesters are – are extremely charming and excellent at the art of deception. And when you love someone and have built your life around them, you are predisposed to believe what they tell you. When you know someone as a man who has looked after kids in various capacities for years – and raised the ones you adopted together – then the trips, the phone calls, the bedtime companionship in the basement room, seem like pure fatherly activities. And pedophiles can – and do – raise families without victimizing their own children – sometimes.

The one thing I know is that this woman is a victim in a whole different way. And for that, my heart goes out to her.

Today is the birthday of Amelia Bloomer, who significantly impacted the future of fashion for all women. Born in 1818 in upstate New York, Bloomer championed the idea of pants for women.  While she did not create the style, which was derived from images of the garb of middle eastern women, she was such a virulent advocate that the fashion itself came to be known as “Bloomers”.

Unfortunately, Amelia was unable to stand the ridicule, and returned to wearing dresses once the crinoline was introduced. For those of you who are not historically fashion-savvy, the crinoline is a stiff petticoat that allows the skirt of a dress to stand out away from the body.  It was the forerunner of the hoop-skirt, and just another tool to help women hide their true shape from men.  Clearly, if men ever got a glimpse of a woman’s true shape in the 1800s, they’d have all turned into raging satyrs.  Or possibly not.  Everyone was obviously very nervous about sex in the 19th century.

While Mrs. Bloomer rejected the comfort of pants for a stiff skirt that challenged mobility , her original passion for pants spurred into existence the Rational Dress Society of 1881.  This London-based organization argued for attire for women that did not deform the body, as whalebone corsets did, and that did not require women to wear up to 14 pounds of undergarments to ensure that their figures were decently disguised.

As a positive aside, the elimination of voluminous skirtage no doubt saved countless lives – each year, scores of women burned to death when their garments went up in flames from passing too near fireplaces and candles.

The Rational Dress Society encouraged women to wear no more than 7 pounds of petticoats – a step in the right direction.  The concept of comfortable clothing for women took a long time to mature, but it eventually did, as we can see by some of our fashions today.  Though I might argue that some of today’s fashions are a step backwards – skirts that are too short and tops that are too tight don’t make a woman comfortable, even though they may be fashionable.  As I’ve discussed before, we seem to be slaves to fashion. (Men are as well – it’s just less obvious.)  Fashion designer Corinne Grassini has branded her clothing line the Society for Rational Dress, and while her fashions look loose and unrestrictive, the hemlines are still impractical.

Vincent Price, horror movie icon from the 1940s through the 1970s, was born today in 1911.  I was in college (for freshman year) with his grandson, who looked just like him.  I loved Vincent Price’s movies – they were scary but so corny that they weren’t scary. My favorite was The Pit and the Pendulum.  Price and Poe seemed to have an affinity for each other.

Today in 1895, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for sodomy.  Wilde was a fascinating and controversial character.  His wit and his focus on beauty and pleasure above all things characterized a life that was full of struggle and selfishness.  While married with two children, he had several socially prominent male lovers, one of whom was the son of the Marquess of Queensbury, who set the standard of rules of conduct for boxing matches for years to come.  The Marquess, in a note left for Wilde in his club, implied that Wilde was gay.  Wilde, given his blase nature, would probably have let this pass, but he was also one who could be easily influenced by his friends.  In this case, his friends encouraged him to bring a suit for libel against the Marquess, which he did.  The Marquess, with unlimited funds and resources at his disposal, proved, in his own defense, that his claim was not libelous, but was, in fact, true.  And so Wilde’s suit was dismissed and he found himself charged with sodomy.

Two trials later, he was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labor.  Wilde was an aesthete and totally unaccustomed to work, hardship or discomfort, and did not do well in prison.  Upon his release, he retreated to Paris.  His wife, who refused to speak to him or allow him to see his children, did provide him with a meager allowance, but he considered himself penniless.  He wrote De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol in his three years in Paris, and died in L’Hotel d’Alsace on November 30, 1900 of cerebral meningitis.  (Of L’Hotel, he remarked shortly before his death, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.”)  He is now buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in a tomb marked by a modernist angel complete with silver genitalia, the original marble genitalia having been stolen by parties unknown.

On this day in 1937, 200,000 people crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on foot and roller-skate, as part of its inaugural day festivities.  The suspension bridge, painted “international orange” for increased visibility in foggy San Francisco Bay, has 80,000 miles of wire in its cables, and connects San Francisco with Marin County.  It’s the most popular place in the world to commit suicide; only 26 people are known to have survived the 245 foot drop into the Bay.  Among the successful jumpers was the husband of a college acquaintance of mine. He was a nice guy who couldn’t stand the idea of their divorce.  Very sad.

And finally, today is Cellophane Tape Day.  So go ahead, try to find a roll of tape in your house.  I’m sure you’re familiar with this mysterious phenomenon – you need tape, you go to look for it – everywhere – and can’t find it, so you go to the drugstore and buy three rolls of tape, come home, find the roll you couldn’t find before you went to the store, use it, and promptly lose the three new rolls you’ve just bought.  It’s like some kind of spiritual planned obsolescence for tape.

Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (no relation to the Geico Gekko), portrayed by Michael Douglas, intones the following line:

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

The line has been summarized as “Greed is good” and has been used by Australian prime ministers, Italian cardinals, and characters in Fallout 2.  While it meshed well with the strong economic times of the 1990s, it now represents the high price that our society has paid for the actions of a covert few over the last ten years.  The irony behind it seems to strike more and more people every day, like a dead fish in the face. 

In the 1990s, I made more than I was making when my job left me at the end of March.  I worked with ad agencies and pharmaceutical companies that had money to burn.  This was back in the days when Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski was spending $6000 of the company’s money on a shower curtain.  Everyone seemed to be flying high on the proverbial hog.  And then it all fell down – literally.  September 11 changed things.  Our soft underbelly was exposed, our humanity, our faith, all shaken.  For an all-too-brief time, we put aside our differences, our desires, our classist distinctions, and acted like a bunch of good people.  People who put others before our selves and our own needs.  Do you remember? 

Our economy took a dive.  Executives like those at Tyco and Enron were exposed for who and what they were and shamed for the damage they did.  Their victims were never compensated, but at least there was national, if not worldwide shame.  Then came the War on Terror – GWB always made it sound like “the War on Tara”, as if we were attacking the plantation from Gone With the Wind – and like confused children, we were hoping that things would get back to normal, that our world would make sense again.  But alas, that world was also gone with the wind.

(Please note that the opinions expressed here are just that – opinions – and my own.)  Instead, we’ve been sucked into eight years of bloodsucking, fiscally exhausting conflict that has apparently done nothing but fill with impunity the pockets of a few very special cronies of the past administration.  We all know it.  We just can’t do a damn thing about it.  Those of us who aren’t in a position to benefit from someone else’s power plays are resentful.  In fact, we’re sitting here watching what little savings we have left rise and fall according to the temperament of the stock market.  I swear, if I didn’t need my “assets” to be liquid, I’d be invested in real estate.  Maybe that’s not a bad idea.  As liquid as they are now, they’re getting pissed away.

And so, the point of this post….greed.  It magnificently and unjustly benefits a few.  I had lunch today with a  friend who is going through a divorce (join the club.)  Her “wasband” is trying to take her for everything he can, because he’s angry that she wants a divorce.  Her lawyer says he’s never seen anything like it.  And because she made more money than he did, he’ll probably get it.  Is he deserving?  No.  It’s nothing but greed.  Greed.  One of the seven deadly sins.  The question is, deadly to whom?  To the one whose soul is consumed by it?  Who has deluded oneself into thinking that things, money, revenge will soothe any pain that exists in the depths of the heart?  To the one who is now rich is assets but poor in spirit?

I have committed some of the 7 Deadlies myself.  I’ve been able to rationalize my actions – to delude myself, just like people who are guided by nothing but greed, into thinking that what I was doing was okay.  I’ve suffered the consequences, justifiably, and come out the other side.

I now comfort myself with the knowledge that those who are consumed by materialism, covetousness, and selfishness, deserve my pity.  And I know that they’ll get their comeuppance.  Greed may be the new black, but it will go out of style again.  It always does.  The richest people are the ones with their love of life and others intact. 

He who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win – he still dies.  Maybe one day, the people who live their lives driven by greed, will see that.  But I’m not holding my breath.  Then again, thank heavens, I don’t have to.

When you get married, you make a special commitment to one other person.  Non-traditionalists like me will generally write their own vows reflecting that commitment.  I encouraged Pat to write some, but he didn’t – he’s never been much of a writer – so I wrote both of our vows.  I took time with it, and combined some of the traditional wedding vows with words from The Prophet, ending with an Apache blessing.  They were very nice vows, if I do say so myself.  I recall being slightly disappointed that the judge who married us read them so quickly.

When times were really tough between us, I would take our vows out and re-read them, to remind myself of my promises to him (our promises to each other?) and how I felt about him then. I also, many years ago before Kelsea was born, got divorce papers from the courthouse (believe me, the packet was a lot simpler fifteen years ago), and would look at them during rough times and realize I still wanted to try to make things work.  But I was the only one consciously or actively trying.

And so, our marriage evolved into both of us resenting, acting out, not keeping the fun and love in our relationship, to the point where I stopped looking at our vows, and stopped reminding myself of our commitment.  He didn’t seem to care – he had never really taken care of me in some of the ways I needed, and so, in my mind, he hadn’t honored that commitment.  He had never been my partner.

I believe the divorce has hurt him.  That’s not what it was intended to do, of course, but divorce hurts.  Period.  I want to be sure that he can take care of himself, because I still love and care for him – after all, he’s been a huge part of my life.  But I don’t feel I owe him.  When we made that commitment to each other, when we took those vows, we entered into a contract.  I initiated proceedings to dissolve the contract, because the terms of the contract – or perhaps the spirit of the contract – were not being met.  If he had felt like my partner, I would feel less resentful about giving him half of what I’ve made since we entered into the contract.  However, I don’t feel his contribution was 50% of our partnership, therefore I don’t feel he is entitled to 50% of everything I’ve worked to create for us – and yes, I was working to create it for US, always hoping he’d step up to the plate.  Bottom line: I never signed up to support him financially.  I can remember him telling my father that he would take care of me.  He didn’t.  (I think my father knew that he wouldn’t, that he wanted to in his heart, but didn’t have the ethics to do so in reality.  My father never said such a thing, but I believe that’s how he felt.)

Does it really come down to money on my part as well?  I have bitched about him viewing me as a cash cow.  He has accused me of being too focused on money; my argument to that has always been that he has so little financial sense that I have had to be overly focused on the finances.  In looking at myself now, it’s not that I wanted him to be making money.  We didn’t need more money.  It’s that I wanted him to be working.  I was working too much to make our ends meet, and he wasn’t working at all.  If we had split that responsibility, like most couples do, we might have made it.  We would have each had a life outside the four walls of the house, and I wouldn’t have felt such a strong sense of inequity in our relationship.  I wouldn’t have had to spend so little time with our daughter when she was small.  I wouldn’t have started running away from home.  I conclude that the failure of our marriage was not really about money, but about a sense of equality – that partnership that we so rarely had.  That there was never really any support for either of us pursuing our dreams.

I think I will read my vows again tonight.  Just to give me some perspective on what I promised and where I fell short. I am determined not to make the same mistakes twice, and to honor any other vows I make in the spirit of true partnership, fairness, equality and harmony. 


August 2022


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