“One man with courage,” said frontier general Andrew Jackson, “makes a majority.”
Yet it’s amazing how many “heroes” come out of the woodwork once the danger is safely past.
Joseph Stalin dominated the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953. He held absolute power twice as long as Adolf Hitler–whose Third Reich lasted only 12 years.
Above all, he was responsible for the deaths of at least 20,000,000 men, women and children:
- At the hands of the executioners of the NKVD (later named the KGB).
- In exile–usually in Siberia–in Soviet penal camps.
- Of man-made starvation brought on by Stalin’s forced “collective-farm” policies.
Then, the unthinkable happened–Stalin finally died on March 5, 1953.
Almost three years later–on February 25, 1956–Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, shocked the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union with a bombshell announcement: Stalin–the “Wise Leader and Teacher”–had been a murderous despot.
Among his crimes:
- He had created a regime based on “suspicion, fear and terror.”
- His massive purges of the officer corps had almost destroyed the Red Army–thus inviting Hitler’s 1941 invasion, which killed at least 20 million Soviet citizens.
- He had allied himself with Hitler in 1939 and ignored repeated warnings of the coming Nazi invasion.
Naturally, Khrushchev didn’t advertise the role he had played as one of Stalin’s most trusted and brutal henchmen.
Over the ensuing years, many of the statues and portraits of Stalin that had dotted the Soviet Union like smallpox scars were quietly taken down. The city of Stalingrad–which Stalin had renamed from its original name of Tsaritsyn–became Volgograd.
Then, in 1961, Stalin’s corpse was removed from its prominent spot in the Lenin mausoleum and reburied in a place for lesser heroes of the Russian Revolution.
The young poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, noted the occasion in his famous poem, “The Heirs of Stalin.” Its gist: Stalin the tyrant was dead, but his followers still walked the earth–and lusted for a return to power.
Something similar happened in the United States around the same time.
From 1950 to 1954, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy terrorized the nation, hurling unfounded accusations and leaving ruined careers in his wake.
Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:
- President Harry S. Truman
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
- Secretary of State George C. Marshall
- Columnist Drew Pearson
Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credability in a now-famous exchange.
Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy, and he rapidly declined in power and health.
Senatorial colleagues who had once courted his support now avoided him; they left the Senate when he rose to speak. Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.
Eisenhower–who had sought McCarthy’s support during his 1952 race for President–joked that “McCarthyism” was now “McCarthywasm.”
Fast-forward to July 12, 2012–and the release of former FBI Director Louie Freeh’s report on serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University (PSU), he had used the football facilities to sexually attack numerous young boys.
But Sandusky was regarded as more than a second-banana. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999, and authored several books about his coaching experiences.
In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving underprivileged, at-risk youth.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh stated.
College football is a $2.6 billion-a-year business. And Penn State is one of its premiere brands, with revenue of $70 million in 2010.
PSU’s seven-month internal investigation, headed by Freeh, revealed:
- Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky.
- So was president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
- In 2001, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the shower.
- Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz then conspired to cover up for Sandusky.
- The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building–where Paterno had his office.
- A janitor who had witnessed a rape in 2000 said he had feared losing his job if he told anyone about it. “It would be like going against the President of the United States,” Freeh said at a press conference.
In 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period. On June 22, 2012, he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
On the day the Freeh report was released, Nike–a longtime sponsor for Penn State–announced that it would remove Paterno’s name from the child care center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.