I’m an Australian and we tend to see our politicians as being little better than used-car salesmen so I do not pay much attention to politicians at all, especially when they are not even from my own country, however a friend sent me an email recently [thank you Candy] that I could not ignore. It concerns the furore that has erupted over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Apparently Romney, aged 18, and his posse terrorized a fellow student at school by overpowering him and cutting off his long, bleached blond hair. It is unclear whether any of the boys in the posse thought the victim was gay, however it is clear that they remember the incident. Republican candidate Romney however asserts that he has no memory of the incident. When Romney, or his minders, finally decided that an apology was required it turned out to be a generic ‘sorry if I caused offence’ type statement.
Those are the facts that I could glean from the net where the media is polarized between the Romney apologists who seem to be determined to paint the incident as no more than youthful ‘hijinks’ and those who are determined to paint Romney as a dangerous bully. Which version is right?
I decided to dig a little deeper. We all know ‘what’ a bully is but what lies behind the label? The italics are mine.
According to Psychology Today :
“Bullying is a distinctive pattern of deliberately harming and humiliating others. It’s a very durable behavioral style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first. Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age, if the normal aggression of two-year-olds isn’t handled well.”
Another source, Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist for twenty five years, says :
“Many people think that bullies are either insecure or have low self-esteem. Recent research shows that some bullies may fit this description, but many bullies have high self-esteem.
The bully leads via intimidation. People follow to avoid being victimized.”
This picture of bullies with high self-esteem dove-tails nicely with an article in the American Psychology Association by psychologist Pat Ferris, MSW, PhD who says that her research into workplace bullying found that :
“…bullying tends to start at the top, trickling down through the ranks, and that bullying breeds more bullying, making it an entrenched cycle that’s tough to stop.”
So, can any of us afford to dismiss Mitt Romney’s bullying as just youthful hijinks? Something he grew out of when he became more committed to his religion?
I imagine that the right wing religious movement in the US would like to believe that getting religion is proof that Romney is now a good, kind, mature person who is well qualified to be a father figure to the nation. I am not so sure of that however my reasons rely on speculation rather than fact. I know that Romney is a Mormon. I am even prepared to believe that he is a true believer however that does not automatically make me trust him.
Why? Because of the possibility that Romney’s ‘slightly effeminate, long-haired’ victim may have been seen as gay. And, as far as I know, no religion on earth is prepared to accept homosexuality as a viable life option. I may be wrong in that assertion but I know that a core tenet of the Mormon faith is the Law of Chastity.
“The law of chastity … states that any sexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriage is prohibited. Included within the prohibitions of the law of chastity is homosexual behavior. Violating the law of chastity may result in church discipline. Members of the church who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual may remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from all homosexual relations and from heterosexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriage.”[wikipedia]
The ‘abstain from all homosexual relations’ part is key. Gays who abstain must be tolerated but what of those who do not abstain? What of those who not only do not abstain but do not even belong to the church? More importantly, how would an 18 year old young adult interpret that law?
Few of us can remember every little thing that we did as teenagers or young adults but most of us can remember the things we did that we are ashamed of. Those are the things that make us feel guilty. Those are the things we do not mention in our CV’s or bring up around the dinner table for fear that even those who love us the most will look away in disgust. Those are the things that at least some members of Romney’s posse remember.
Methinks that Mitt Romney either does remember quite well and chooses to pretend that he does not. Or. He genuinely does not remember because that incident was just one of many that he believes show what a strong, powerful leader he was, even back then. ‘Of course in this climate of political correctness the boo-hooers have the upper hand but in time those bleaters will be the first to appreciate what a true leader can do…’
Does Mitt Romney as President scare me? Oh yes. Romney has achieved pretty much all that he has ever set out to achieve, which means that what worked at 18 is still working now. That is scary because if bullying worked at 18 then why would he want to change a winning formula as President?
Once a bully always a bully.