Could you blow the whistle? Would you take the bullet?
What do you do when evil stares you in the face?
Suppose you're in the Penn State athletic program and aware that nothing is being done as a pedophile coach continues to molest young boys. Do you speak up?
Or you're in a movie theater when someone opens fire? Do you dive for cover, or become a human shield for a friend, a child, a spouse or a complete stranger sitting nearby?
Penn State is a story of institutional failure, of a university allowing the self-preservation of a money-making football program cloud moral judgment. Aurora, Colorado is an all-too-frequent reminder that evil walks among us, striking the most vulnerable and unsuspecting with random savagery.
Both stories rattle trust. We like to think places like Penn State are bastions of good, with noble missions and clear-headed administrations who put what's right ahead of what's profitable. We want to believe that a movie theater is a place to escape reality for a couple of hours, somewhere you can share a single experience as part of a group.
Penn State, we've come to find out, had blinders on. Movie houses, it seems, are no safer than post offices, high schools or other past venues that played host to mass, random horror.
And, they leave us to wonder what we'd do when confronted with the uncomfortable, the illegal, the potentially lethal. Who among us would have the courage to confront evil in our respective workplaces, to blow a whistle or confront a boss? Who'd be the selfless soul who'd put him or herself between a stranger and a madman's bullet-punctuated rage?
These stories anger us--we expect better from institutions of higher learning. We expect to walk into a movie theater and to come out alive.
They also make us wonder. Could I blow a whistle? Would I take a bullet?
We hope we're never put in a position where we'd have to answer those questions. The frequency of such situations makes sure the question is never too far out of mind.