I Know From Pranks. That Was No Prank, Mr. Romney.

I love pranks. I just pulled a real classic tonight on my tour - I pulled our bus alongside a cab and said "Is your engine running?" When the confirmed that it was (obviously), I said "you'd better go and catch it!"

Everyone had a good laugh. This was the oldest one in the book, but a new prank for me. My usual trick on the bus is to challenge other drivers to a race ("if we're going downhill and have the wind at our back, we can get this baby up to 45 miles per hour!"). Occasionally I'll ask if they have any Grey Poupon, or, given that I'm on a "ghost tours" bus, ask if passersby know how many people splattered to a messy death on the spot where they're standing. Some people are less amused by this than others (one guy who appeared to be Amish looked like he was going to pull a knife on me a few years ago), but they're all in good fun. Pranks always are.

Earlier in the day, though, a news story had broken that when he was in high school, Mitt Romney had his friends hold a kid down while he cut his hair. The kid was widely rumored to be gay, and presumably his hair style was an indicator of this. Mitt claims not to remember it, but doesn't deny it, and there are plenty of surviving witnesses to the incident. 

Lots of people, I would even say most people, do things in high school that they aren't proud of later - I can think of a few things I did to people that I feel bad about now. And certainly in the early 1960s, the idea that one should be tolerant to homosexuals wasn't on everyone's radar yet. Even as late as a few years ago, people were still operating under the impression that gays were all a bunch of perverts who decided to be gay in order to tear at the moral fabric of society (or something). Anyone who grew up in Mitt's era probably said and did things that would be considered politically incorrect today. And few were making a case for gay rights back then, so it's not particularly reasonable to expect Mitt to have been so far ahead of his time on the issue. I believe Mitt when he says he didn't realize the guy was actually gay. In those days, one could still plausibly imagine that they'd never actually met a homosexual, and no one would tell them they were fooling themselves. 

But most of what we call "politically incorrect" is really just plain incorrect, and holding a terrified student down and cutting his hair isn't a prank. A prank is all in good fun, and you imagine that at the end of it, even the victim will probably have a good laugh. The cab driver tonight had a good laugh, and we wished each other a good night as we each drove off beyond the light. The kind of stories we're hearing about Mitt veer beyond "pranks" and into Draco Malfoy territory.

I have some experience to speak of here - when I was in high school, it was widely rumored that I was gay because I had curly hair. Pointing out that it was natural didn't help; one line I heard a lot was "mine is curly too, but I do the right thing and get a crew cut." For the most part this was just people being ignorant, but sometimes it got worse. One guy at work chased me with knives while his friends cheered him on and tried to block escape routes. I can tell you right now that I didn't end up laughing about it later. I spent a few days flinching every time I heard a car door open, thinking the guy was going to be behind me with a bunch of his friends. I spent my remaining few days at that job watching my back. 

And I'm sure that all of those guys probably grew up to be decent, respectable human beings. Looking back on it now, I imagine they're embarrassed about it. I don't know what their names were anymore, but if I ran into them and brought it up, I imagine they'd seem a bit flustered and say "Oh, man, I can't believe we did that. We were pretty awful back then." That wouldn't be an apology, exactly, but it would at show that they knew it was wrong, and that they were't proud of it. That would be good enough (for a guy who didn't expect me to elect him president or anything).

But Romney's response has been a weak "If anyone's offended, I'm sorry," and now an accusation that the president has launched a conspiracy against him by having the story come out now, like HE'S the victim here. That he claims not to remember it is especially damning. I can imagine that he'd forgotten all about it, or hadn't thought of it in years,  but it seems that no one else in the room ever forgot it, so I can't imagine that it doesn't ring a bell for him. 

 I don't think that being a jackass in high school, even taking it way too far in something like this, disqualifies you from being president 50 years later,  but a LEADER would show some remorse, show that he understands that what he did back then was wrong, and maybe find a way to turn it into a teachable moment. His actions all those years ago paint him as an entitled little prep school snot back then, but it's how he's responding to it now that's making him look like he wouldn't be much of a leader. Right now, he's not even acting like a man.

3 comments:

otherdeb said...

"The kind of stories we're hearing about Mitt veer beyond 'pranks' and into Draco Malfoy territory."

Uh. No. They go beyond that.

otherdeb said...

"But Romney's response has been a weak "If anyone's offended, I'm sorry," and now an accusation that the president has launched a conspiracy against him by having the story come out now, like HE'S the victim here."

His response has been worse than that; it's clearly of the 'I'm sorry you feel that I offended you' variety.

otherdeb said...

"But Romney's response has been a weak "If anyone's offended, I'm sorry," and now an accusation that the president has launched a conspiracy against him by having the story come out now, like HE'S the victim here."

Exactly.

Adam's New Book: Sept 2013