By Henry Piarrot
With all of the news coverage about the alleged child molestation at Penn State University, I have been hearing much bravado from many who boast about what they would have done had they been the one to witness former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a 10-year-old boy in the shower.
Like many of you, I would like to think I would have done more at that critical moment than run away and call my daddy. But, it does make me wonder where many of our leading citizens are when we have similar situations in our own neighborhood.
For decades, Sandusky was a powerful man and an influential member of the Penn State community. Consequently, many good people looked the other way, or simply refused to believe such a fine upstanding man would do such things with young boys. Today, with the benefit of hindsight, all I keep hearing is how tough folks would have been if that happened around them.
However, over and over again, we in East Tennessee often refuse to see what is happening right in front of us. Sometimes it is because we just do not want to get involved, or the accused is from a powerful family that we are too afraid to take on.
But, I know a brave man. This man is a faithful husband, an excellent father and even better grandfather. He is a veteran, former citizen of the year from a local organization and the kind of neighbor that will gladly help you rebuild your barn.
Does not quite sound like the kind of man that is serving the rest of his admirable life in prison, does it? I know, it makes no sense to me either. Especially, since he used every proper and legal means possible to protect his grandchildren from reoccurring sexual abuse. All for nothing, as nobody had the courage to help him protect his family.
There was a time when society generally encouraged moral choices, certain expected standards of faith, work, community service, honesty and other solid characteristics. Regardless of status, what was once behavior that would earn ridicule is now something that if you have enough money is either held up in a positive light, or carefully kept in the dark.
Today, when a man of strength and character, does the right thing, he will in fact often be making the less popular choice. Now, popularity has never been a yardstick by which truly important choices should be measured but in the case of my friend, status certainly trumped what was actually righteous.
This excellent husband and his remarkable wife raised a daughter who met and married a young man who seemed to be well bred. However, they were completely unaware of the demons that lived within his benevolent costume.
As in all abusive relationships, the courtship is beautiful and inspiring. But, once the prize is won, the curtain closes to the world and the horror of daily life becomes hidden from public view.
Unfortunately, this story was no different and my friend’s daughter experienced the horrifying realization that her husband was actually molesting their young son. Yes, you read what I wrote correctly.
When there was no more money to borrow and nothing left to sell to pay for lawyers to help keep his family safe, my friend took the law into his own hands. Instead of giving him a medal for doing exactly what many of us would have done if faced with the same painful choice, he was promptly introduced to what most lawyers jokingly call, “The Golden Rule; He with the gold rules.”
I believe many of the good people involved in this American tragedy know deep down inside that a patriot sacrificed himself for his family. It has been apparent to me for quite some time that if those who are paid to protect children, and even those of us who are not, did not look the other way, we could righteously be appalled by the Penn State story.
However, those who had a chance to help this heroic man protect his beloved grandsons, actually did even less than the grown Pennsylvania man who witnessed a child being molested in a shower and could only muster the courage to call his daddy. Is anyone surprised that his daddy did not do anything either?
Henry Piarrot is a hotel manager and Sevier County resident on assignment in Nashville. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.