Friday, May 11, 2012

Romney's Prep School Bully Stigma And Why "Dumb Things" Doesn't Wash: A Very Personal View.

Perhaps it is Romney's youth that will 
finally belie the youthful Romney
There are certain things in a person's psyche that are harder to change than others . A feeling of superiority is one of them. And when you are bred to believe that you are superior, that feeling is almost insurmountably hard to dislodge from your mind...and your soul.

I went to a Catholic boys college prep school, and although it was not exactly the image of Pencey Prep* because it was a commuter school, it was perhaps the most elitist school in the Chicagoland area. The most elitist, the most academic...and the most macho: from our first day of freshmen year we were referred by the priests/teachers as "men." Our football and swim teams were considered among the best in the country. So many of our "men" went to Notre Dame that my going to the University of Illinois was looked upon as a humiliating apostasy. Because of its proximity to Chicago, it was certainly an upper class school for sons of the Mafioso. And with its Dominican priests, it was strict and not for the faint of heart.

Being even slightly effeminate made for four difficult years. Four VERY difficult years, in fact.

Every morning I knew that I would have a horrendous time in PE, I would upchuck breakfast. I was a "spaz". Some guys called me "Vo-Queer" instead of Vojir. I hung out with others like me - other guys who didn't completely fit in. We simply called ourselves "The Group" (before Mary McCarthy's book ever came out). By happenstance, we all came out of the closet in our mid-twenties**, but during our prep school years, we knew what "homosexuals" were, what they did sexually, and that they had relationships.

So perhaps the most disingenuous statement made by Mitt Romney after the appearance of "Lord of the Shears" is:
"I don't remember that incident," Romney told Kilmeade. "I tell you I certainly don't believe that I ... thought the fella was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s. So that was not the case.
He knew. He remembered ... and he knew. Bullies always remember their exploits: they brag about them enough to keep them fresh for a long while. They especially brag about their exploits in terms of sexuality: beating up fags is as much of a right of passage as having sex with members of the opposite sex. In extreme cases, sometimes sodomizing (gang-raping) an effeminate boy was also a right of passage. Showers and locker rooms were not always the safest places to be, especially if you had a limp wrist.

The Romney campaign has predictably back peddled with an "apology", claims of "evolution" and "dumb things." Supposedly we should all move on and look past it to a man who has a sterling character. But the portrait of Mitt Romney emerging as an insufferably arrogant, preppy kid is totally appropriate in a world that demands the birth certificate of the President.

The Bully Being Bullied

The timing of the expose couldn't have been more hazardous for the Romney campaign, coming at the heels of Romney's gay advisor Richard Grenell resigning from pressure from other bullies - the Christian Right. The boyhood "pranks" are explained away as simply the result of typical teenage angst, kind of like what waterboarding of detainees at Guantanamo is to Ann Coultergeist. The irony of the Grenell affair is that some people are sounding like bullies themselves: admittedly, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association does think much of a presidential candidate who will buckle under "yokels" like Bryan Fischer.

Another part of the portrait: some of today's bullies - the corporate kind - aren't particularly concerned about the very poor.

During the past twenty years, Mitt Romney has not physically changed - his youthful visage and energy gave the Republican Party its JFK. The portrait of a man who's temples are grey contrasting to Obama's increasingly graying hair makes a difference in politics since so much of politics is based on appearance. But it's a portrait that may change regardless of Romney's appearance. The "Lord Of The Shears" affair may start to reveal a hidden portrait - one which may turn out more like the Picture of Dorian Grey. How fitting that a story of Oscar Wilde - the most flamboyant man of his time - could serve as a metaphor for such a man.

*The school in J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye.

** I burst, nay, exploded out of the closet, eventually winding up as a go-go dancer at San Francisco's End Up in 1975, two years before Armistead Maupin's Tales of The City featured it.

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