Lauren Hale condemns a prank allegedly committed by Mitt Romney on a fellow student, but asks us to consider whether a grown man should be held responsible for the acts of his teenage years.
Teenagers are vicious creatures. We all have an incident or more in our past which includes cruel pranks or jokes played on us or worse, ones for which we are responsible. Many of us manage to mature into adults who realize this type of behaviour is not acceptable. Some of us mature enough to apologize to the affected parties while others may continue to bully.
But is preying on others a necessary part of growing up?
In an age of instant communication including cyber-bullying, it would seem that it is indeed a part of growing up. Now though, we protect our children from such behaviour through zero-tolerance policies, public outrage, and anti-bullying movements. But even those who fight against anti-bullying, such as Dan Savage, are still capable of throwing hatred at others. Where does it end and how do we truly manage to fight against bullying when it is such a volatile subject?
The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz poses an interesting question relating to bullying with an article about an incident involving Mitt Romney back in 1965. According to eyewitnesses, Romney and a crew of his friends held a fellow student, John Lauber, to the ground. Romney cut his hair as Lauber cried and begged for mercy. One of the eyewitnesses refuses to be identified, but many have come forward.
A fellow student of Romney’s did not discuss the incident with him, waiting instead to see if Cranbrook School would issue any disciplinary action. Friedemann claims no action was taken.
Romney stated earlier today on Fox Radio, while discussing the incident:
“I don’t remember that incident and I’ll tell you I certainly don’t believe that I, I can’t speak for other people of course, thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s, so that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I’m afraid I got to say sorry for it.”
A quick visit to the Cranbrook School’s website reveals a page dedicated to information about Romney’s time there. Listed among his activities are “Cross Country, hockey manager, Glee Club, Pre-Med Club, Church Cabinet, The Forum, Pep Club, Blue Key Club, American Field Service, World Affairs Seminar, Speculator’s Club, Homecoming Committee chair, assistant editor of the yearbook, ‘The Brook,’ and Inter-House Council Form 6 Representative from Stevens Hall.”
Cranbrook’s mission statement is as follows:
“Cranbrook Schools are independent day and boarding schools that provide students with a challenging and comprehensive college preparatory education. We motivate students from diverse backgrounds to strive for intellectual, creative, and physical excellence, to develop a deep appreciation for the arts and different cultures, and to employ the technological tools of our modern age. Our schools seek to instill in students a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, the ability to think critically, and the competence to communicate and contribute in an increasingly global community.”
If this indeed is the mission statement and stood as such back in 1965, I venture to say that while Romney is ultimately responsible for his behaviour, Cranbrook also holds responsibility for failing to protect the student body from attacks while striving to instill personal and social responsibility. Failing to discipline a student for an attack such as the one the Washington Post alleges occured speaks volumes in Cranbrook’s true stance regarding social and personal responsibility.
When you are bullied as a young adult, it is something you do not soon forget. It shapes your life, affects your esteem, your behaviour, and if it is horrific enough, it may overshadow your entire sense of being. We teach our children now that if someone bullies them, to go to a teacher or go up the ladder. In 1965, I’m willing to bet most bullying was ignored and believed to add to development of character and growing a thick skin, something necessary for surviving in the real world.
Does this make Romney’s actions acceptable? Absolutely not. If Lauber’s hairstyle was against school policy and that’s why Romney had issue with it, then he should have run it through the proper channels instead of taking it into his own hands. If it wasn’t against school policy and Romney’s issue was a personal one, then he certainly handled it improperly. But was it a hate crime? By today’s standards, if Lauber was indeed homosexual, and that was the motivation, then yes, it would be classified as such, even though Romney claims he had no leanings toward believing Lauber was homosexual. But in 1965, it would not have been classified as a hate crime.
Children behave in accordance with the beliefs upon which they are raised. They are also very malleable and easily succumb to peer pressure—run with the pack or be devoured by it. Adults, while recalling how we are raised, also have the option of growing beyond the beliefs handed down by our parents.
If this is the only incident involving such vitriol in Romney’s past, it should be acknowledged as an isolated incident involving an immature teenage who reacted poorly to someone of whom he did not approve. But if more incidents come to light, incidents which are more recent in nature, then, we should absolutely be concerned as to the character of the next possible president.
Successfully fighting against bullying requires us to model positive behaviour to our children and teenagers. This includes teaching moralistic upright behaviour, manners, holding parties responsible for their behaviour, schools and organizations responsible for protecting students and members, and not indulging in games of accusations in a public arena.
We are human therefore we are fallible. If we consistently judge ourselves and those around us based on the mistakes of our past, we fail to allow for growth, maturation, and recovery, dooming ourselves to consistently repeating the past.
The past should not be forgotten. It should be acknowledged, dealt with, and then we should move forward with the lessons learned. Maturity demands this. Society should expect this.
We all have less than perfect histories.
Isn’t it time we acknowledge even presidential candidates are human as well?
Image courtesy of Cranbook School’s website