Written By: Jackson Thomas
Remember The Godfather? Of course you do. Imagine the scene where Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo goes to see the Corleone family about going into business together. I paraphrase:
The Turk: You’ve been in this game a long time. Help me sell my heroin by hooking me up with your connections and I’ll give you a cut of the profit.
Don Vito Corleone: Absolutely not.
If you remember, Sollozzo was neither upset nor angered by Corleone’s rejection. He was not irked at being told no. His ire was not tickled by the answer because The Don’s answer never mattered. The entire sit down was a small part of a larger plot to kill The Godfather so someone else could take over.
Like Vito Corleone, Don Emilio Barzini was a head of one of the Five Families of New York. Starting, with Sollozzo’s proposal, he set in motion a master plan to kill Corleone so he could run the city without having to worry about pesky things such as morals or values or integrity. All he cared about was money and power. The Turk and his heroin was but a pawn in Barzini’s scheme to usurp the throne of the king of the city.
They mirror this dynamic in Godfather II, only it’s Michael and Johnny Ola at the sit down, while Hyman Roth lurks in the shadows preparing for the best monologue in the trilogy. The viewer is shown that regardless of time, place or characters involved The Cycle repeats itself through different variations of the same story. Forever. One should probably ask oneself why that is. No, the answer is not lazy writing or a lack of creativity. Yes, the answer might be important.
Knowing all this, let’s take a quick look at the Penn State situation. In a nutshell, Jerry Sandusky was accused of a horrible crime and the media went nuts. More people accused him. The media went crazier. More people came forward. Media insanity intensified. And so on. And so forth. The university did what everyone assumed they would do: They freaked out and fired everyone. They tore down statues. They removed wins and championships. They erased just about everything they could regarding the stories of legends past.
The situation destroyed Joe Paterno, aka football’s Einstein. Hell, it killed him for all intents and purposes. This was a man defined by pretty much everyone who met him as humble, simple and gentle. Filled to the brim with integrity, ethics and morals. He listened. He cared. He put the team and the university ahead of himself and his ego all the time. What did all this mean upon accusation? What did all of those years of honorable service buy? Nothing. Everything fell within a few months of the allegations — an important word. Not evidence. Not convictions.
Penn State didn’t even wait until the trial began to start cleaning house and issuing apologies to the victims. This, of course, made the result of Sandusky’s trial a foregone conclusion. After all, how is one to receive impartial judgement when one’s peers are already convinced of something due to the constant barrage of ubiquitous media coverage? And how could those peers not be convinced of guilt when they see the accused’s employer violently shove everyone under the bus and run for cover?
(I would say they were stabbed in the back, but that would be ridiculous. It’s nearly impossible to perform a stabbing motion when one is scurrying for away like a rat.)
Back to Sandusky, I don’t know if he’s innocent or guilty. I make no argument for either side. But it’s important to point out how the media blitzkrieg decided the fate of this man long before any courtroom appearance. The rabble ate it up, as they always do during a witch trial. They were out for blood. Had they had access to torches and pitchforks, it would have been ugly. Everything he said in or out of that courtroom was irrelevant. His fate was sealed. You could almost hear Joe McCarthy cackling in delight.
Sandusky continues to claim innocence. He is adamant he did nothing wrong. Meanwhile, people keep coming forward against him, most recently his son. He believes there is something bigger going on behind the scenes.
It’s worth mentioning the group in place at Penn State were of the Old Guard. They valued and understood history and tradition. While other schools throughout the nation were going with updated looks, Paterno and company stuck with the same basic uniform. They were not the type to allow a company to dictate what they wore on the field. Even the people set to take over after Paterno stepped down would never have considered changing the uniforms. I think we all understand this, right?
All of those people are now gone. Their era is dead. Penn State has already changed the uniform by adding names to the back of the jersey. If they unveil some glow-in-the-dark abomination with tassels on the sleeves and 38 swooping logos on the new iron-ore-metallic-flaked-carbon fiber helmet, everyone should stop for a moment and ask “Qui bono?”
What if Sandusky is telling the truth? He says there’s a conspiracy against him. He wrote a letter to a judge about it (as did his wife), but their words are written off as crazy ramblings or outright lies by the majority of people who read them. They are positive he is guilty. This is probably because of the nature of the accusations, which is to be expected, as it’s a heinous crime to be sure.
But what if he’s telling the truth? In our society, where money and notoriety are so obscenely sought after by so many, yet discovered by so few, shouldn’t we at least be looking into who has come forward and why Sandusky was demonized from the onset of the story?
The presumption of innocence, also known as someone being “innocent until proven guilty” is not a right granted in any legal document in the United States. (It pertains more to bail proceedings than the trial itself.) Still, it’s an important concept — one which is being lost to the delight of everyone involved in the news media. After all, it’s all about ratings and bottom lines. To hell with anyone who gets in the way.
Remember Jon Benet Ramsey’s parents? Their daughter was killed in their home. They were destroyed emotionally due to a trauma that had been inflicted on them. After it happened they could not process all the information and questions being thrown at them quickly enough. Their stories “had holes” according to people. They were accused by others. The news entertainment system caught a whiff of blood in the water and swarmed immediately. The Ramsey’s were vilified by the press. The rabble latched on and declared them guilty, sans trial. Their lives were left in ruin.
Turns out they were not guilty…what was that, a decade after the fact? By then it didn’t matter, did it? An entire family destroyed, and for what? Ratings and money: William Randolph Hearst’s wet dream. We must stop chanting “Burn the witch!” and start asking the question “Why are we burning the witch?”
Once more, I do not know who is guilty or innocent in any of this. I’m not crying conspiracy. I’m not saying there is something rotten in Denmark. I do not know. What I do know is a program was destroyed and a man was judged guilty by a vast majority of people before a trial began and no one ever asked why.
We find ourselves in a cycle of creation through destruction, where no lessons are learned and no wrongs are righted. We just sit back and complain until it goes away, then we complain because the same thing happens again and we do it with no irony whatsoever. It must stop. Imagine if Vito and Michael Corleone had failed to ask the question “Why?” in their situations. They’d have simply watched as Barzini and Roth took over their empires. Bad for them, but worse for us – their movies would have ended much too quickly.