Postal Wisdom

July 18, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Some people are unhappy about the Happy Valley statue of Joe Paterno.  They want it removed, torn down. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Times says let it stand.  Coates, who is African American, also wants to preserve a Columbia, SC statue of Senator Ben Tillman, “who helped found Clemson University and, in his spare time, defended lynching from his august national offices.”

For both statues, Coates applies the same reasoning:  We need to be reminded of our past sins – ours, not just those of the racist or the child-abuse enabler.
Arguing for the [Paterno] statue’s removal, the legendary coach Bobby Bowden said he wouldn’t want Sandusky’s crimes “brought up every time I walked out on the field.” That’s the point. Sandusky’s crimes should never be forgotten . . . .  It is shameful to deify men who put nationalist ritual before children. But it is more shameful to pretend that this elevation was achieved by Joe Paterno’s singular hand.
I’ll pass for the moment on questions about the function of heroes and whether we really need them and what it says about our society that we apparently do need them and who are the people we choose to make our heroes.  But the simple point is that the statue should never have been built.  And if the Happy Valleyans had known then what they know now, it would not have been built. 

What was the hurry? 

The Post Office comes in for a lot of criticism, but on this one they got it right: no commemoratives  until the person has been dead for ten years.* 

That seems like a wise policy other institutions should follow.

* I was watching Jay Leno one night back when there were sightings of Elvis in supermarkets and other venues.  Leno mentioned the Elvis commemorative stamp and added, “The Post Office rule is that you have to be dead for ten years . . . and stay dead.” 

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