There used to be an old Jewish story dating back to the time when Babe Ruth hit his record-breaking home run. According to this story, an elderly Jewish immigrant, hearing about Babe Ruth's great achievement, says that there is only one important question: is it good for the Jews? The story, of course, dates from a time when there was great prejudice and discrimination, not to mention severely restrictive immigration quotas, against Jews in this country.
Now the headlines and TV screens in America have been taken over by a juicy football scandal. A revered 84 year old coach, Joe Paterno, has been fired by Penn State University, along with the university president, for allegedly failing to take action against a serial child sexual abuser, who was also on the coaching staff. The university students are rioting.
The allegations, to be sure, are horrible - sexual abuse of boys 10 years old or younger taking right in the team's locker room on a regular basis, without ever being reported to the police or effective action being taken. This alleged conduct, it goes without saying, is unforgivable, whether perpetrated by a staff member of a sports team, a religious organization, or anyone else. This is why we have criminal laws. Let us hope they will apply - there are such things as statutes of limitations - and that they will be vigorously enforced.
But there are other people who are being abused, or are being put in fear of being abused, in even more dangerous and lethal ways, in far greater numbers and on a daily basis, in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Arizona desert tents and by other racist officials in former Jim Crow states such as Alabama, once the home of Governor George Wallace and Sheriff Bull Connor. They are also being abused, with many losing their lives from maltreatment and medical neglect, by the administration of America's first African-American president.
These people are, overwhelmingly, Latino and other minority immigrants, men, women and, yes, children. According to some reports, they even include minority US citizens.
But where are the outraged news columns, the round the clock TV coverage, the pundits, the talking heads, the analysts, the prognosticators, and yes, the (peaceful) demonstrators and protesters against this other horror, which, unlike the scandalous reports of locker room abuse of young boys, is not just the work of one alleged sex offender, but of an entire system operating under the color of law and affecting many thousands of people on a daily, ongoing basis?
As we continue to watch the Penn State scandal unfold (since there is no choice - try finding anything else on television), let not forget to ask: is it good for immigrants? If Penn State helps to focus the attention of the public on the much wider and even more despicable horror of America's immigration detention system, and on our government's deportation madness (shared by so much of the general public and by unscrupulous, demagogic presidential candidates and other politicians), perhaps it will be.