I originally posted most of the following in response to comments concerning the conduct of Penn State Assistant Coach Mike McQueary made in response to my post In defense of Joe Paterno. But the issues facing McQueary are a bit different than those facing Paterno, so I think it deserves its own post and discussion.
McQueary is taking an incredible amount of heat himself for his relative lack of action in the Jerry Sandusky case. That he did not immediately run into the shower and, apparently, beat the crap out of Sandusky to protect the boy very near the top of that criticism.
And, indeed, McQueary bears far more "moral" culpability than Paterno does, because he witnessed the actual incident. Maybe legal culpability as well.
That said, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate again. Keep in mind a few things.
First, remember that McQueary was just a graduate assistant. Sandusky was a legend on campus and was known throughout the US. (I myself had heard of Sandusky in junior high.) Major perception of power disparity there. McQueary may have felt Sandusky could squash him like a bug and nothing would be done about Sandusky. That's why he went to Paterno first. To make sure he had political cover. A perfect reaction? No, but a human one. Cowardly? Maybe. But would you act differently? Be honest.
And also consider the following, again from my own experience:
In my lifetime I have had a gun pointed at me, been present for an attempted shooting, been burglarized, had my car stolen, been surrounded by muggers, been physically threatened and narrowly escaped a car jacking.
In each of those cases, my immediate reaction was not anger or fear but bewilderment. "What? What's going on here? What the Hell was that?" What I witnessed or experienced was so out of the ordinary that I had trouble registering it at first. Making sense of it.
"Did he just point a gun at me?" "Some construction worker must be using a nail gun out in the Columbus City Center atrium, because that was REALLY loud." "Why are those two big men running at my car while I'm at this red light?" "What did that guy say to me?" "Why is the back door to my house open?"
It typically took a few minutes to register. You may see it on CSI: Miami or something and say you'll react this way or that if you experienced it yourself, but until you actually do, you don't really know. And seeing it in person is A LOT different than seeing it on TV.
So, if McQueary's response was anything like mine, when he witnessed the incident, he may have been more shocked and bewildered than anything else. Might have walked away in shock thinking "Did I just see that? What the HELL was that? What was he doing with that boy? He wasn't doing what I think he was doing? Was he?"
It may have taken a few minutes to register, for what he saw to sink in. Only after he realized what he had actually witnessed did he become upset. By that time he had probably left the building. And he may not have even been sure of what he saw hours later.
A perfect reaction? No. But a human one. I don't know that you can expect anyone to react perfectly in this situation. Even those trained to deal with it can have problems.
I don't know that that's what actually happened with McQueary -- I could be totally off base with it -- but just give that scenario some thought.