Saturday, May 12, 2012
The Perils of Adolescence, My High School and Mitt Romney
I know everyone has heard, by now, about Romney The Homophobe who bullied a young, effeminate boy many, many years ago, sadistically pushing him to the ground and cutting off his hair, that he didn't like because it was bleached and someone had to stop him. Evidently, Romney The Prankster also laughed when a near-blind teacher almost walked into a plate glass door. Those are the two instances that several people described as indications that the all-perfect presidential contender isn't the moral paragon he claims.
I'll jump into the Romney Fray with just that note: the man as boy mocked a disabled person.
Let's talk about junior high and high school. Let's talk about the cliques: the bullies, the popular people and the jocks, the nerds, the band members, the rich ones, the blacks, the Jews, the Christian Young Lifers, the drama and theater kids, the weird, the trashy, the smokers. These were just some of the groups that existed at my relatively small, very exclusive private prep school in Atlanta, Georgia. I spent six years at that school in probably several of those groups over the years: the nerds, the band members, and the popular (eventually). During the nerd years, I was made fun of, periodically, for being ugly, for wearing large glasses, for being smart and for being flat-chested. I remember in the seventh grade, walking down the hallway after an honors program where I'd received an honor for every subject and hearing some of the cooler people whispering brain, brain, brain and giggling together. That I was smart, even brainy, was something to be ashamed of, and I felt ashamed that year. Ashamed and ugly and flat-chested. As the years went by and the braces came off and I got contacts and learned to tamp down the brain until it was cool to be smart, I gained more confidence, but I never forgot, obviously, those who said those things and those who laughed. I wonder if they remember. I imagine that if I were to accuse them, they'd remember and for the most part they'd apologize or, at the very least, feel chagrin, maybe embarrassment.
Evidently, Mitt Romney doesn't remember a lot of those incidents, and if he does, he has deftly relegated them to the hi-jinks of adolescence.
Here's another thing. I can't remember specific instances, but I imagine that when the tide turned for me, when I began to emerge from the nerd cocoon and become more accepted and popular, I must have snubbed someone, must have hurt someone, along the way, because the pressures of adolescence and the grappling for place almost came down to a sort of psychic survival. If someone were to approach me today and tell me that I'd hurt them once, long ago, I'd believe them and I'd probably cringe and feel terrible.
I'd be ashamed, and I'd say that I was sorry and I wouldn't make excuses.
Mitt Romney bullied and mocked a different person. He forcefully cut off that person's hair. He mocked a disabled person. O.K. It was forty years ago, and we know that he wouldn't do the same today. But when accused, a person of character will apologize for his behavior in the past. A person whose character has been forged by immense privilege and repression -- well, he'll act like Mitt Romney did this week. He's a tool and an asshole, and he's running for the presidency.