Recently, it's emerged that Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a bully in school. He's had trouble projecting an electable image, and something as divisive as this is unlikely to help. The timing and nature of what's emerged is also unfortunate, coming as it does hard on the heels of the North Carolina vote to make same-sex marriage even more illegal, along with complicating any long-term relationship which is not a marriage, and President Obama's announcement that he has decided he was wrong to be against same-sex marriage; there are hints that the victim in the spotlighted incident may have been targeted because Romney may have thought he was gay.
Romney's school years remind me in many ways of the time I spent at a high-pressure academically and socially selective school. I was always the outsider there; a scholarship boy, barely able to afford the uniform and only able to attend because the usual swingeing fees had been waived due to my academic brilliance. Being the outsider, in the typical atmosphere of young boys where academic excellence is less than cool, was not a pleasant experience; I would not have been part of the set in which Mitt Romney moved. That set was defined by intelligence just sufficient to meet the standards required to stay on, just sufficient to get away with bad behaviour; and by being fully paid for. It's a sad fact that in private schools, scholarship students are seen as intrinsically less desirable, less important to the school, than those whose parents are paying the full fees.
It's telling that despite physical violence, the spotlighted incident doesn't appear to have resulted in any punishment for Romney. He claims not to remember the incident, and if it didn't result in punishment I don't doubt that he doesn't. I've made contact in recent years with some of the people by whom I was bullied while at school, and very few of them actually realised at the time just what they were doing, or remember specific incidents. This is a defence mechanism; very few people have the strength to actually look hard at their childhoods and realise what insufferable little shits they were. The incidents that caused us pain, physical or emotional, are what stick out.
There's a worrying quote from Romney's wife, attempting to allay concerns that he may be too stiff to be electable: Ann Romney says that "There’s a wild and crazy man inside of there just waiting to come out" and that we shouldn't read too much into his facade. Unfortunately, the nature of the unpunished bully makes me deeply afraid of his "wild and crazy" side; I don't trust him to have learned the limits of reasonable behaviour, and I don't trust him to have developed any empathy.
This post has come out distinctly political, and I didn't intend it to come out that way. Frankly, I would be just as perturbed by revelations of this nature about Barack Obama, with whose policies I have more agreement than with Romney's policies. It's the nature of the man that concerns me, not the causes he espouses. Most of "my" bullies grew up and became decent people; my abrupt departure from the toxic situation coupled with the involvement of the police, since it had become a criminal matter, acted as a shock which provoked some rapid re-thinking. Even without memories of specific incidents, knowing that one's actions have provoked such dire consequences can be enough. Mitt Romney never had that shock.