[Vision2020] Mean Boys

Art Deco art.deco.studios at gmail.com
Sat May 12 12:37:15 PDT 2012

  [image: The New York Times] <http://www.nytimes.com/>


May 11, 2012

Mitt the menace.

That’s the image that emerged of a high-school-aged Mitt Romney from a
Washington Post article this
recounted allegations of his mean and even violent behavior as a prep
school student in Michigan.

The allegations include shouting “atta girl!” when a “closeted gay student”
spoke out in class and walking a blind teacher into a closed door after
which Romney is reported to have “giggled hysterically.”

But nothing is more disturbing than an alleged attack on John Lauber, “a
soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney” who “was perpetually teased
for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality.”

Lauber bleached his hair, which apparently “incensed” Romney.

So one day Romney reportedly led a “posse” of other boys “shouting about
their plan to cut Lauber’s hair.” According to the article, the boys came
upon Lauber, “tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes
filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair
with a pair of scissors.”

One of the boys involved described Lauber as “terrified.” Another
schoolmate said that Lauber was “just easy pickin’s.” Another called the
incident “vicious.”

In an interview with Fox
Thursday, Romney laughed as he said that he didn’t remember the
incident, although he acknowledged that “back in high school, you know, I,
I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended,
obviously I apologize.” He continued, “I participated in a lot of hijinks
and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for
that, I apologize.”

There is so much wrong with Romney’s response that I hardly know where to

But let’s start here: If the haircutting incident happened as described,
it’s not a prank or hijinks or even simple bullying. It’s an assault.

Second, honorable men don’t chuckle at cruelty.

Third, if it happened, Romney’s explanation that he doesn’t remember it
doesn’t ring true. It is a searing account in the telling and would have
been even more so in the doing. How could such a thing simply melt into the
milieu of other misbehavior? How could the screams of his classmate not
echo even now?

Fourth, “if someone was hurt or offended, I apologize” isn’t a real
apology. Even if no one felt hurt or offended, if you feel that you have
done something wrong, you can apologize on that basis alone. Remorse is a
sufficient motivator. Absolution is a sufficient objective. Whether the
person who was wronged requests it is separate.

Lastly, this would have been an amazing teaching moment about the impact of
bullying if Romney had seized it. That is what a real leader would have
done. That is what we would expect any adult to do.

A 2010 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 77 percent of
Americans believed that bullying is a “serious problem that adults should
try and stop whenever possible.” Romney passed on that chance.

While I have real reservations about holding senior citizens to account for
what they did as seniors in high school, I have no reservations about
expecting presidential candidates to know how to properly address the
mistakes they once made.

This is where Romney falls short, once again.

There was a malicious streak at the core of the high-school boy in these
accounts. Romney’s muddled and confusing explanation and half-apologies
only reinforce concerns that there is also something missing from the core
of the man: sincerity and sensitivity.

Targeting the vulnerable is an act of cowardice. The only way to vanquish
cowardice is to brandish courage. Romney refused to do so. This is an
amazing missed opportunity to exhibit a needed bit of humanity by a man who
seems to lack it.

People understand regret. Romney may have been applauded if he had chosen
to express some to redeem himself, but he didn’t. He chose obfuscation and
obliviousness. Romney has an uncanny ability to turn a bad thing into a
worse thing by failing to be forthright.

Americans want to know that the boy from that prep school grew up in
knowledge and wisdom and grew deep in compassion and empathy. We want to
know that his shoulders are now wide enough to bear blame and his heart is
big enough to seek contrition.

Americans want a president who doesn’t target the weak, but valiantly seeks
to protect them.

That is what courage looks like.


I invite you to join me on Facebook
<http://www.facebook.com/CharlesMBlow>and follow me on
Twitter <http://twitter.com/CharlesMBlow>, or e-mail me at
chblow at nytimes.com.

Art Deco (Wayne A. Fox)
art.deco.studios at gmail.com
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