On Taking Action

You may be familiar with the issues and allegations surrounding the current Penn State controversy. I haven’t been following it in much detail until recently. Seems heads are rolling over the lack of action by various administrators and coaches. Particularly loathsome, in my opinion, is the inaction of Mike McQueary who allegedly witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a shower. I’ve been following a number of posts and discussion on Bookworm Room concerning the topic. It would appear some folks feel there is too much focus on McQueary when it was Sandusky who is the true monster.

I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why: What keeps me up at night isn’t that I might be a pedophile (or a purse snatcher, or a terrorist). I do get anxiety at the possibility that when it matters, I won’t rise to the occasion. The mere thought I might not take action in the face of a hazard or threat fills me with dread.

This manifests itself in little ways. When flying out of Kuwait the plane is normally filled with military types. Inevitably there is a spouse traveling with children and lugging along a formidable carry on bag. It is with some satisfaction I can report men of action trip over each other in an effort to render assistance. Here’s the funny thing though. If I’m not the guy helping stow her bags and kids I feel like a complete heel, as do all right minded people I would hope.

The atmosphere sadly changes once we arrive in the U.S. and transfer to our connecting flights. Boarding one plane I noted a mother in front of me carrying her baby on a device which resembled a front mounted parachute with arms and legs. She was wrestling a carry on bag bigger than both of them through the aisle. I found my seat but bag, baby, and mother continued on down the plane. With some foresight I dropped my pack in my seat and followed them a few rows down where she was struggling with her bag trying not to crush her baby in the process. Lesser men seated nearby were engrossed in periodicals of one type or another when I loudly asked: “Miss, may I help you with that?” With some relief she thanked me as I stowed her bag in the overhead compartment in one mighty heave.

I stopped and looked around at the men seated nearby with open distain. In retrospect I wish I had addressed them with: “Gentlemen, do you find it acceptable to sit around when this woman obviously needs help?” Fortunately for me, this is the extent of my missed opportunities, unlike McQueary.

Of course, rendering aid to traveling mothers and choke slamming pedophiles caught in the act are two wildly different scenarios. The main point remains the same though. When presented with an opportunity to take action, it should be seized. Perhaps it is tied up in my identity as an American warrior but I consider it my duty to do so.

In the company office we have been discussing how much dental reconstruction Sandusky would have to endure had any of us caught him in this heinous act. We also can’t fathom how McQueary didn’t do more than fumble with his cell phone. Surely he could have pulled a fire alarm, yelled, or done something more substantial than call his dad for advice.
This also reminds me of the e-mail I wrote to Dr. Alan Berkowitz a while back and his response. I reprinted his recommendations to the USMC Senior SNCO Sexual Assault Prevention Conference. In particular I am reminded of recommendation number 4:

Hold bystanders accountable. In every incident there are bystanders. Are they held accountable for their non-action? Create a climate in which bystanders are expected to intervene in some way and support and appreciate bystanders who act.

There you have it. For my money, McQueary didn’t do enough to actively intervene on the victims behalf. He isn’t the perpetrator but intervention could have ended this alleged predatory conduct years ago and prevented subsequent molestation of other kids. I have no sympathy of Mr. McQueary or anyone else who felt they did the minimum required. They should be made examples of even more than Sandusky.

I don’t think being a good citizen requires you to strap on a weapon and patrol your neighborhood. It does require a certain morality and a duty to take action when possible. The quote below has been reprinted often enough to be nearly cliche, but I think it bears repeating in this case.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Evil triumphed that day back in 2002. Evil got its rocks off at the expense of a ten year old boy. Mr. McQueary, had he an ounce of valor, could have stopped evil in its tracks by physically intervening and failed to do so. Those are the sad facts.

Evil: 1 / Good Guys: 0

You may not like the score. Changing it requires more than standing around with your hands in your pockets when the monsters come out. I pray when my opportunity comes I don’t let the good guys down.

Semper Fidelis,
‘s 1stSgt
/ / / /


  1. Thanks so much for taking a subject that’s obsessed me for the past few days and running with it. As you can imagine, I agree with what you wrote.

    I can, however, hear the McQueary apologists: “It’s not fair to compare him to military guys, because they’ve been trained to be proactive.” Or, alternatively, “The military is self-selecting, since pro-active types are drawn to it.”

    If the military is the last bastion of American men who care for the small or helpless, we are in deep horse pucky.

    What I’m about to say sounds like a non sequitur, but it’s not. Generations of Americans grew up learning a specific aspect of Titanic mythology: “Women and children first.” Men died, so that women could live.

    Historic revisionism, helped by Hollywood, tells us that the men on the Titanic, especially upper class men, were brutal in their efforts to survive, trampling women, children, and steerage passengers. I don’t know enough about the Titanic to know the truth, although I do believe vastly more women and children survived than men.

    The real point is that our culture went from having as its paradigm the belief that women and children must be protected, to having as its belief the fact that men are brutish, selfish animals, and you can’t do anything to change that fact. We don’t just have low standards for American men, we have no standards — unless, of course, they’re in the military when they have high standards for themselves.

    Now that we’ve diagnosed the problem, with McQueary as the visible symptom of a terrible disease, what’s the solution?

  2. Book, after 20 years of service I can attest I have never been given a “proactity” class. We do teach about traits and principles as well as values and ethics.

    I think Robert Heinlein said it quite well: “Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “Women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal.”

    The solution is recomendation #4: “Hold bystanders accountable. In every incident there are bystanders. Are they held accountable for their non-action? Create a climate in which bystanders are expected to intervene in some way and support and appreciate bystanders who act.”

  3. 1. In a fairly long life, the couple times when I didn’t open my big mouth and stick my oar in are among the things I regret most.
    2. Those sour memories are enough to impel me into doing something.
    3. We’re becoming more European by the day.
    4. There, the height of civility is to mind your own business.
    5. Why we’d trade our robust and healthy culture for theirs is a mystery to me.
    6. Growing up out West, the code of behavior shown in the movies and early TV shows was accepted without reservation and demonstrated in the daily lives of most of the people I knew.
    7. Now that is derided as being childish and untrue.
    8. The revisionists are wrong, for a really basic reason.
    9. In the old days, almost everybody was religious. The Biblical tenets were pretty definite and not subject to a great deal of debate.
    10. According to the revisionists, our ancestors were immoral, self-serving, deists or atheists -in short much like they are trying to paint us as being today.
    11. A manly outlook and an uncomplicated view of right and wrong is its own reward.
    12. Consider yourself rewarded.
    V/R JWest

  4. At 3 a.m., I woke up and realized I wanted to add something: in America, it’s not just that men have abdicated responsibility. It’s also that feminist culture aggressively denied them responsibility, or even decency.

    When I was back at Cal in the 1980s, young men quickly learned not to open doors for heavily laden women. Yes, they might get a thank you, but as often as not, they’d get some whacked out feminist tirade castigating them for believing that a woman was incapable of opening a door for herself. Get enough of these, and you learn to sit on your hands.

    Whether you’re a boy or a girl, if you grow up hearing that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” the message is clear: men, you’re useless. Go away!

    In my milieu, parenting teens and tweens, what I see is that, old-style misanthropic feminism notwithstanding, the girls actually do want real men, while too many boys think “Great, I’ve got a pass to be a perpetual adolescent.” It’s sad.

  5. Top,
    I give a class to college employees on why and when they should report things. Like when a drunk wonders into a classroom…
    They usually said:”I didn’t want him to get in trouble.”

    And I’d say: “how would you feel if he left and got run over by a bus?”
    Very liberal people think it’s better to not get involved—unless THEY need help. Then they want everybody to come save them.

    I also would point out that as a public employee in CALIF, they could get sued for not doing something.
    That got their attention.

    Wait for the law suits to start flying at Penn…that’s where the big money is…The college and the employees who did nothing will pay millions of dollars.

    In the Army, I did the same thing…told my junior NCOs to take action when something wrong was happening.
    There should be no sexual harassment– treat everybody like you’d want your sister or mom treated if you’re a male.

  6. Suz, well thanks! 🙂

    JWest, every time I pick up a Louis L’Amour book I think: “Dang, I missed it.”

    Book, a well known comedian once said: “If chivalry is dead it’s because women killed it.”

    CI Roller, I love how they think not reporting something is doing someone a favor. Sadly we have to appeal to the “what’s in if for me?” thought process to get their attention.

  7. I agree with Bookworm.
    We’ve reached a place in our society where, if one tries to help, they face either outright rejection and anger or a lawsuit if they somehow fail to do what is expected.
    In addition, if you see a criminal act, what happens when authorities take YOU in and make YOU seem to be the criminal?
    Also, our schools teach children to care for themselves first so they grow up feeling “Not me. Let someone else do it.”

  8. When presented with an opportunity to take action, it should be seized.


    But I’m not buying some of the ‘chivalry is dead’ arguments in the comments, not for this case at least. There were other stronger possible motives of inaction in this incident:

    1) Not doing the right thing because you’re afraid to lose your job (sadly people have done this from time immemorial – have perpetrated, abetted or turned a blind eye to evil just to keep their money and position).

    2) Losing yourself in the rigid hierarchy of a particular institution. The reputation of the institution must be upheld at all costs, you cannot inform on your superiors or report problems to any outside agency, etc. (Again, this kind of thinking is not something limited to our day and age, but has been seen frequently in history and across institutions…)

    3) This relates to point 2: Turning a problem over to superiors/authority figures. Even just listening to authority figures and obeying them when they tell you to do the wrong thing.

    (Just to be clear, I’m not presenting any of these as excuses.)

  9. Also just wanted to add: thank you for your service to the US (and, as it comes across in this one post I’ve seen so far in your blog, your commitment to helping others and doing the right thing in general).

  10. We have come to the place where most people don’t act because “It’s not my problem”, or “It doesn’t affect me…” And we are reaping what we have sowed.
    More people need to get up off of their fat a$$ and DO SOMETHING when the need for it arises.
    Thank You, 1st Sgt, for being one of those proactive people!!

  11. In the name of getting loud and “in your face”y on problems as they approach, I offer the following:

    Google up “inter-generational intimacy”.

    A definite move is building up to decriminalize pedophilia and pederasty.

    The Psych community is already largely subverted. It’s listed as good for children due to the special mentoring received by them, and a “victim-less crime” that only causes issues because it’s illegal.

    There are judges already known to be on board.

    There’s more and worse. Just do the research.

    We’re not so far away from the time when trying to prevent an adult from molesting children will be a hate crime.

    – Grimmy

  12. LV Cabbie, it would suck but I’d brave the law suit if it meant saving a kid.

    HKatz, I’d submit those points you make could be the reason it is dead as well. Thanks for checking out the blog!

    Leslie, thanks. I often tell Marines the best thing they can do is just make an impact in their own sphere of influence. Here’s hoping others can do the same.

    Grimmy, I’ll just take your word for it. The only way to fight this kind of obscenity is to call it what it is.

    CI Roller, I take it you meant “against evil forces”?

    Winter, pondering on it is well and good. Even better is seeing an opportunity (no matter how small) and seizing it with both hands and doing something about it. That is our purpose.

  13. Well said 1st Sargent! I was wondering the same thing. This guy was caught right in the act! Even if he was not “doing the act”, being naked in the shower with a naked boy is a crime!

    My God, if the coach had been stabbing the boy, would he just have notified his boss and not called police.

    Great call on pulling the fire alarm. Quickest way to get others to the scene.

  14. I agree. If you are witness to an event where you can help, or stop someone from being harmed, you are morally obligated to step forward. It is not always easy, but it can be done in so many small ways that in the end, add up to a more civilized society.

    This takes me back.
    I was 20, and had to ride the bus back and forth to college, to work, even to the laundrymat. It was a long ride, and I liked sitting in the bench seats near the driver. However, I’d always offer my seat to someone elderly, or someone with kids.

    I was raised that way.

    One day, I was sitting in the back with my load of laundry. The bus was packed, but I noticed up near the front, an old lady hanging onto the pole, trying not to fall as the bus swayed. I saw the bench seats –a bunch of able bodied oblivious miscreants.

    The bus stopped. I made my way up to the front of the bus, and gave the miscreants hell for not giving up their seat. “Can’t you see?” I screamed. I’m sure I looked spectacular: a 20 year old in running shorts dragging duffle bag of laundry.

    I recall being the darling of the bus driver from that day forward.
    Anyway, the problem is that people are choosing to look in, not out. The see that struggling person, but they choose self preservation and isolation rather than helping humanity.

    And for that, I hope those miscreants are still riding the bus and doing laundry at the laundry mat. In fact, I hope they never have the right change.

  15. Torpedoman, sometimes you just have to improvise right?

    Kanani, I’ve wondered how well it would work to address everyone present with something like: “Is this acceptable to you?” Haven’t had the opportunity to try it out yet though. And here’s to hoping they mix their colors with their whites!

  16. More European JWEST? I hope so; having seen film of ordinary citizens in London moving toward the fire and smoke of the London underground bombings, Frenchmen jump onto train tracks to pull a person back up to the platform, and having read of Glaswegans charging the occupants of a burning car that had rammed into the airport with a bomb on board. And slamming them to ground with a well placed punch or two.

    I’m afraid “don’t get involved you might get sued” is a thoroughly American sentiment.

    Well said 1st Sgt, I’m disappointed when I don’t get a chance to help someone, and I too hope I would not fail if I was presented with the opportunity to do the right thing.

    In my civilian job, we are charged to intervene whenever we see an unsafe act or situation, to stop the job without consideration of cost or schedule. I keep in mind how awful I would feel if I failed to act and someone was injured or killed, that’s enough motivation for me.

  17. Sadly I have had more than my fair share of interaction with pedophiles, but I am proud to say when a situation came before me I acted in the benefit of the child. In fact his trial is this week. Sadly, most people choose to rationalize with stupidity because the offense seems too horrible. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “Everyone does something they regret. I bet he’s really sorry.” Yeah… okay.
    In my humble opinion, if you willingly take action to enable a crime, especially against a child you should be brought up on charges. Enabling to me is the same as doing nothing once the crime has presented itself.
    As far as feminism goes, when males tell me I can’t do something BECAUSE I’m a woman, that’s when I tend to prove they’re wrong. Granted I’ve never been challenged on anything I really couldn’t do. As far as opening doors or giving up a seat, that’s just good manners. As a woman I have given up my seat on the bus for elderly or pregnant women. I have also held doors for mothers with their hands full. Gender has nothing to do with good manners and I’m teaching my boys the difference.

  18. All too often, this extends extends all the way down to even the smallest things, like holding open a door for someone, even when they are not in need. My children are taught to hold doors open; sadly, all too often, they are not thanked for their effort by the recipients of their kindness.

  19. Jim, more often than not, taking any action is better than none. Funny how this is a crucial lesson on the military side.

    Kristina, in my ideal world pedos get head of the line privileges at the gas chamber. Common decency is indeed genderless.

    Songbird, like I always tell my Marines, we may not always be able to change the big picture but we can make an impact within our small sphere of influence. I remember opening a door for my Aunt when one of my young male cousins jumped in front of her to get in the door. Imagine his surprise when I snatched him up by his neck and growled in his ear: “We will wait for the ladies.”

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