Was Romney a typical school bully? Is he still one today?

The Washington Post report on May 10th: Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents ignited a firestorm, especially coming, as it did, on the heels of President Obama’s May 9th personal endorsement of gay marriage.

Kathleen Parker, opinion writer of the Washington Post, states that it’s all a great fuss over nothing important. She suggests that since the word gay had not yet been appropriated by the homosexual culture and the movement had not yet begun, then there could have been no gay bullying.

Let’s examine her reasoning with an excerpt from her May 11th WP A gay marriage proclamation? Bullying? Much ado about the wrong things. column:

Briefly, as told by a handful of boarding-school classmates, Romney led a group of boys who tackled and held down John Lauber and cut his longish, blond hair. Romney allegedly didn’t like Lauber’s look and decided to fix it. The subtext is that since Lauber later came out as gay, Romney is a not-so-closeted gay-hater.

Tackled. Held down. Unless applied to sporting activity, those are bullying terms.  Romney didn’t like Lauber’s look and forcefully changed that look, without asking or receiving permission from Lauber. That’s bullying.

For those to the premises more recently arrived, a quick primer on 1965, when this occurred. Nobody knew who was or wasn’t “gay,” a word that wasn’t yet in popular circulation as a noun and generally meant “merry.” Homosexuality wasn’t on most high school kids’ radar, period. If anything, Romney may not have liked Lauber’s “hippie” locks, which is the more likely case given the era.

1965 was a time of repression and struggles for freedom. Civil rights for blacks dominated the liberal news, and the unpatriotic, war protesting hippies dominated conservative news. Gays were so repressed they didn’t even have an identity as a group yet, and that’s with anywhere from 2 to 10% of the population born LGBT. The lesbians and gay men of 1965 hid out in Mafia owned and controlled bars, subjected to police raids regularly. Many homosexual men were so ill informed about their natural sexual orientation that they bought into the societal references to them as Nancy boys, fairies, and poofs. Those terms were around, even if ‘gay’ wasn’t. And any school, and perhaps especially private schools, had plenty of awareness of homosexuals. That’s why the terms were considered so offensive, because they declared the receiver as less than, other, suspicious, and perverted.

Whatever. Lauber obviously was a nonconformist in an environment that valued conformity, and Romney and his crew were indeed bullies. They shouldn’t have done it, but boarding schools until recently were not widely known as incubators of sensitivity. Today, of course, prep schools feature weekly diversity seminars and offer staff psychiatrists for the noncompliant.

At least she admits Romney and crew were bullies, even if she then rushes in with the old tried and truthyisms: But everyone else was doing it too. and They’ve changed a lot since then. First of all, it takes a certain type of mentality to bully. Someone who’s mind jumps the fence and believes that one human being is inferior to another. Not everyone has that mentality. And second, if a school has made advancements in their social behavior and code of ethics, it certainly does not necessarily follow that any of the students taught in the offensive culture have done so.

But five decades later, this is a campaign issue in a presidential election? Lauber’s family doesn’t think it should be — and they may be the only people who count in this particular debate.

Um, no. I’m terribly sorry if they’re embarrassed by the story and the play it’s getting, but when Romney decided to run for president he opened up his entire history to public scrutiny. Now that we the public know that Lauber was bullied by a group led by ‘poor Mitt’ as Kathleen Parker calls him, every single one of us who has ever been bullied, or seen, or loved someone going through it, count in this particular debate.

The real story, meanwhile, is the one that keeps getting pushed aside, which is that the country is going bankrupt and that 32 percent of young people (ages 18 to 29) are underemployed

Ms. Parker has a point about the urgency of the country’s growth and employment. But she shouldn’t worry – the 99% know how to keep the country from going bankrupt, and stimulate the economy – tax the 1% at a fair rate. When the economy starts receiving a steady infusion of income taxes from the ultra wealthy and large corporations, real small businesses (not the large corporations who find loopholes to claim they’re small businesses) will begin to thrive again. Solutions are all around us, and just an election away.

But as long as we’re talking about things like gay marriage and contraception — all forced to the fore by Democrats, by the way — Americans can avert their gaze from the evolving economic collapse, which will be anything but gay.

Forced to the fore by the Democrats? Is she flippin’ kidding? It has been Republicans uniformly who routinely put bills on state ballots to limit the civil rights of LGBT folks. Election after election gay folks have been brought front and center to bang the drum call for the ultra conservatives to show up at the polls. It has been a calculated ploy to bully us as a people, to garner and demand the loyalty of the people who have now become known as the Tea Party. And when the ground swell of support for gay marriage began to breach the 50% approval rating, suddenly the Republican lawmakers’ focus was back on contraception and women’s reproductive rights, presenting restrictive bills as fast as they can.

Oh, and I see what she did there at the end, funny huh? The use of the word gay to mean merry, only it doesn’t, see, because the country is going to hell in a hand basket over a tempest in a TEApot.

So that’s my take on the last half of Ms. Parker’s article of May 11. But it does raise another question, which is:

As a political leader, what are the ramifications of Mitt Romney being a bully?

Hmm – a sense of justification for current bullies and those newly inspired to bully? A ‘sanctification’ of abuse? Might bullies find a sense of ‘entitlement’ to pursue their bullying, as after all, Mitt Romney does it? Will kids be telling each other the story of Romney and the queer, as boys of earlier eras told the tale of Washington and the cherry tree?

I think it’s possible. And to keep that from happening I write books like The Boxer Rebellion.

What do you think?

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