“Pranks”

May 10 2012 @ 5:20pm

Some of what Mitt Romney did as a schoolboy definitely falls into that category. My high school classmates tormented various teachers routinely. Leading a blind teacher into a door is cruel, but it's still within the category of prank, in part because it targets authority. Bart Simpson pranks. But Nelson Muntz bullies. And the story of the attack on the young nonconformist gay boy is a particularly ugly piece of bullying. It was a vicious and violent assault by a mob organized by Romney, who held him down on the floor, and cut his hair with a pair of scissors.

I do not believe Romney has no memory of this. I believe he is lying. His absurd statement that he has no memory of the event but that he didn't target the boy for being gay is hilarious for its self-contradiction. A boy who routinely snickered "Atta girl!" when one young gay kid in his class spoke up is not just bashing hippies. I went to an all boys high school in the 1970s. What Romney did was a gay-bashing.

Should we judge a man today by what he did all those years ago?

Not entirely. He has apologized. But there is surely something here: the notion that being privileged and conformist requires actual punishment of the marginalized and under-privileged; that you pick on younger, weaker boys, not older ones; and that you psychologically traumatize the victim by permanently marking his body.

And this matters because today these attacks on gay kids drive many to suicide, others to despair; they wreck lives and self-esteem. It matters that we know that one candidate for president was an anti-gay bully in high school, targeting a weak and defenseless kid and humiliating and traumatizing him. Today, he does the same thing in a larger, more abstract way: targeting a small minority as a way to advance his own power. It gives me the chills.