Monday, May 14, 2012

I Was Never a Bully in High School

During a mothers'-day lunch with my mother, after learning that she had broken our agreement (she would offset my donating nothing to the Obama campaign by donating nothing to the Romney campaign–thus saving money for us both), I couldn't control myself and asked her what she thought about the Washington Post piece on Romney's bullying:  

He was incensed that a boy had long blonde hair and led other boys to hold him down while he cut his hair. 

Who would do that? I asked.

Didn't you do things in high school you're not proud of? Mom asked.

Of course I did. But I was never a bully!

And I never was. I can't even imagine that kind of action. What I can imagine is standing up for someone weak against someone stronger. I have done that repeatedly over my career at four different universities. My first impulse is in favor of the disadvantaged. That informs many of my personal and political choices.

Mitt Romney's political impulses are in favor of the advantaged.

When asked about the incident, Romney claimed he couldn't remember it.

This morning I woke to a set of memories (forgotten only briefly during the self-righteous conversation yesterday) that have shaken the certainty with which I countered my mother.

While in high school, sharing a room with twin desks and bunk-beds, I bullied my younger brother John. The memories are of white-hot anger, of fights that only ended when I had my way, fights over trivialities like whether the light in the room should be on or off.

Like the boy Romney bullied, John later came out as gay. 

I don't think (but I'm not sure) that that had anything to do with our fights. Romney too claimed that it never would have entered his mind that the other boy was homosexual.

My memories are clear. They are shameful. They have been with me since I left home to go to college. They inform every sentence I write as I work to overcome whatever parts of that past that can be overcome (it has been two decades since John died and the manuscript "Immortal For Quite Some Time" still has my focused attention).

The knowledge of the feelings and actions of a bully make me a better person, the person who could state flatly that I was no bully.

Now, today, and perhaps since I left home, I am not and have not been a bully. If that is true, it is only true because of the strength of the heart wrenching, indelible memories.

Mitt Romney is either brutally calloused or a calculating liar.


michael morrow said...

fascinating how memories get call it falsified memory..the idea that the past is real...or even exists beyond memory..all I can do is play the hand I'm dealt to the best of momentary ability..moment to moment...

evidence I'm doing children are spite of parental guidance..

Scott Abbott said...

love the 'in spite of parental guidance'

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll admit, this one bites
hard. As the eldest son, I know I bullied my younger brothers. It's painful remembering. As my mother said as she lay dying, "I've done some things I'm not proud of". Well, yes so who hasn't? And if we think we haven't we are liars or worse. As Bishop and Stake President, a "judge in Israel" Romney should be more sensitive not less, to such issues. I don't see evidence of that. Instead he seems to exemplify the arrogance of the "elect". Chuck