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Mitt Romney and Doo-Ball

A gay friend of mind posted a link to this article on Facebook wherein Mitt Romney is castigated for bullying a gay student back in his high school days. My friend added the following comment:

I’ve had good friends tell me that people who bullied me in high school and called me faggot and put me in trash cans and locked me in lockers and gave me fatigue squad for ‘being effeminate” are “now really nice guys and they were just young”. I will never accept youth as an excuse… and i won’t accept it from him. They are called ‘formative years” because they form us into the adult we will become.

Mitt claims not to remember the incident, but he does acknowledge that he did “dumb things” in high school and offered a blanket apology for them. That’s standard operating procedure for dismissing the sins of the past, although I’m not sure why. No one is satisfied by “if I did something wrong, I apologize” apologies, because they’re too weaselly to accept any real responsibility. Mitt’s classmates who helped him pin the kid down and cut his hair remember the incident clearly. Which is worse – that Mitt is lying about what he remembers, or that he genuinely doesn’t remember something so blatantly cruel?

Perhaps some embarrassing personal reminiscences might help.

I was bullied rather extensively during my elementary and middle school years. In the parlance of the day, I was “asking for it.” That is, I was a loudmouth, a weirdo, and a provocateur. I could run verbal circles around my more thuggish schoolmates, and they didn’t appreciate it. Worse, I didn’t back down from fights when I really should have. I remember getting pummeled by a neighbor kid who lived about five houses down, storming back home, and then getting so mad that I’d let him get the best of me that I’d walk right back and challenge him again, only to be smacked down even harder. I think this went on until I could barely stand.

The one incident of bullying that haunts me to this day, however, was the kid who used to lie in wait for me as I walked home from the bus stop. Later in life, he was branded with the nickname “Doo-Ball,” which, even though it didn’t come from me, was a name I felt he richly deserved. Doo-Ball always had two or three brutish friends with him, just to make sure it was never a fair fight. I would try to fend them off by swinging my ample French horn case at them, but the whole thing  always ended with me pinned face down in the grass as a rain of fists came pouring down on my all-but-defenseless stick figure body. Doo-Ball eventually let me wriggle free and run home sobbing, laughing behind me as I went. I can still taste the blood and dirt in my mouth as I think about this today, over three decades later.

I had no recourse. I do remember once coming home, screaming, and grabbing a butcher knife from the drawer as I tried to run out and seek revenge, only to have my sensible mother restrain me. She tried to help by bringing this to the attention of the bully’s parents and the school, but it didn’t end. For two years, I walked a mile or so out of my way to use a different, Doo-Ball-free bus stop every day.  Thankfully, by the time I’d gotten to high school, the bully lost interest.

I remember this with painful clarity, and there’s no doubt that the experience had a powerful impact on me. But did it have as powerful an impact on Doo-Ball? Does he remember pounding on me as vividly as I remember being pounded upon?

Early in this blog’s history, I recounted an incident where I mercilessly teased Sheila, a young woman, because of her public displays of affection. I wasn’t violent, but I was a jerk. And, let’s face it, I was a bully. Odds are, others could come forward with tales of my nastiness, but I can’t think of who they would be off the top of my head. I do remember such incidents when they’re brought to my attention, but they aren’t burned into my memory the way they are burned into hers. In other words, to expand on my friend’s comments from the opening of this post, my nastiness was much more formative for her than it was for me. That’s unfair, but it unfortunately seems to be the way the world works. I like to think that such unkindness is behind me, and that I’ve grown up considerably since then. Certainly I can’t imagine treating anyone as cruelly today as I treated her decades ago.

Should I be judged today by what adolescent Stallion did to Sheila? I really, really hope not.

I don’t know how much this will affect Mitt’s chances, and I don’t want to excuse what he did. I just think that anyone that wants to castigate him for boorish behavior ought to take a moment to consider whether they, themselves, at any time provided a “formative” experience for someone else that they would just as soon forget.

If you’re troubled by this, ask yourself: Is this a standard by which I could be judged and come away guiltless?

I saw Doo-Ball about five years ago at my 20th high school reunion. I thought about going up to him and saying hello. I didn’t. And I would never vote for him for president, even though I don’t think our high school sins should weigh against him. But come on! Would you vote for a guy named Doo-Ball for president?

UPDATE: One of my former teachers tried to guess Doo-Ball’s real-world identity, and, while he came close, didn’t quite make it. I’ll be happy to email interested parties offline if you’re curious.

Undecided? Barack Beware!
1980, Part Deux?

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19 Comments

    • I think that’s an unfair characterization. Many, many times, I offered an olive branch and tried to reach out and speak to Langy as a human being, and I got nothing but bile for my efforts. However, I am, of course, Glen A. Larson, so bullying is what I do best.

      • Personally, I think Languatron who ever he is in real life is not sane. So I think that we all amused ourselves at the expense of Languatron’s sanity. And I think it was made easier for most of us by the anonymity afforded by the internet. So we could compartmentalize our real lives from our online lives and pretend that it wasn’t really hurtful or wrong of us to do to Languatron. I mean really should any of us amused ourselves by taunting and exploiting someone who was clearly demonstrating insane behavior? I was no better than you at times. But perhaps that is why I can say we were all guilty of cyberbullying Langy.

        • Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t as if Lang was playing the victim. I defy you to find anything from anyone that’s as cruel as Lang’s hateful slurs against people of different religions, ethnicities, or sexual orientation. You can absolve him of responsibility due to your perception of his mental capacities, but there’s no denying that Lang was a whole lot nastier to us than we were to him.

          • You’re right– he thought he was winning. He thought he was engaged in a real life battle with the people who he abhorred for their role in the death of a fiction television series. However, would you not agree that on some level we all had a responsibility to merely ignore the insane tirades that Langy would write? After all were we not the ones who at times prompted and instigated some of his more horrific outbursts? I think so. I know I did it. I really don’t care– what people think about it– I had fun doing it, and would do it again, just for the hell of it. I won’t deny it. But I won’t say it wasn’t a form of cruelty to assuage my own guilt and pretend that I’m some how not just as vile as most people are to each when given a chance to be. I will just say the nature of the beast is to abhor that which does not conform to our specific mode of social representation. This is probably due to our over use of inductive reasoning techniques– causing us to believe those things that most resemble ourselves as good and those that differ the most to be inferior or wrong. Of course this logic is flawed but, it is powerful since it serves us well in many instances in our lives .(And, more importantly evolutionarily speaking; it is a key factor in the success in spreading specific genetic mutations that have yielded our very nature today: i.e those early hominids that didn’t think twice about Lions being dangerous were more likely to reproduce and stay alive then those that said “wait he could be friendly”). So you know we all do it every day of the year– categorizing, sorting by type, creating scheme that allows to rapidly sort out tremendous amounts of data from our senses. This is then coupled to need for many to create a homogenous world view so that we can simplify this process even more.

          • I think that, fundamentally, there is a massive difference between violence and swapping trash talk with someone who thinks you’re Glen Larson. Nothing we did to Lang had any effect on him in the real world, and he enjoyed the scrap as much as you and I did. The only time he was genuinely scared or embarrassed was when I called him, which, ironically, was a non-bullying attempt on my part to reach out to him as a human being.

            I’m not saying that the whole Lang legacy was a noble thing, but I don’t see it as bullying.

    • Sorry to be a pain but you did publish the call and the details. Wouldn’t a true olive branch be on the down low? Now I don’t claim Langly is innocent in all this foolishness, but I don’t think he is the rational party here if you know what I mean.

      • I had no intention of publishing the call. Seconds after I made it, Langy was plastering my phone my phone number all over Frakheads and accusing me of sexually harassing his octogenarian mother. When I wrote my account of the call, it was at least two years after the fact.

        Again, I’m not claiming that was my finest hour. I’m saying that what happened with Lang wasn’t bullying.

  1. Unfortunately, due to not only American culture, but practically the whole world over is directly responsible for trampling the quality of life out of human beings for no other reason than being attracted to the same gender and living life as the person they are. For some people it isn’t the obvious bullying that is the most damaging, it’s the subtle ways that people make them feel that who they are is wrong or bad.

    But it’s this type of tactic that is exactly what’s wrong with American Politics. Presidential elections politics just doesn’t seem to be based upon important and reality based issues anymore. It’s who has the best selling ad campaign . It’s whose writers come up with the best jingle that either plays on the public’s worst fears or can ignite flames of passion or patriotism.

    It’s heart-breaking

  2. But is fighting Langy a fair fight? It not like your taking on RGrant. Do you think posting his photo and personal info was kind? Not trying to be mean, just asking.

    I think we are paid back for our bad behaviour by experiencing it though our children. When our kids are treated badly by other children and we did the same thing 30 years ago, it makes you pause and regret. Just my two cents.

    I find it interesting that there is no mention of a certain sitting President’s use of cocaine in adulthood but Mitt’s behaviour 50 years ago is such an issue.

    • Good point. Posting his real name, I think, is in bounds as it’s all over his books, although using his public pic may not be, although it came from a public site. You’ll notice I never posted either his phone number or address, and I have both. In contrast, he lost the use of one of his sites because he was repeatedly posting my personal info, and the site owner yanked him down.

      But, yes, it’s not a fair fight, and I’m glad it’s over. And the invitation still stands. If he wants to have a rational conversation, I’m more than game.

  3. It is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that a teenage kid going to an all-boys school in the 1960s would have come out of the closet to his peers.

    It is even more ridiculous for anyone to suggest that (what appears to be) a single data point from 50 years ago should have more bearing on our opinion of an individual’s underlying character than the thousands of data points we have since then.

    Ain’t politics fun? (sigh)

  4. I endured a fair amount of bullying when I was a kid. In later years, a majority of those who engaged in such actually came to respect me, if not become friendly. Only a select few remained jerk-offs.

    My theory is that you there are two types: 1) People who bully because they want to “fit in” and 2) actual bullies. I know I engaged in acts of bullying in an effort to rid myself of my own social status. The only result of that was me losing some of the friends I did have, and I soon stopped it.

    The truth is that no one is perfect, and the best of us screw up. To judge us only on our screw-ups is unfair as they are not indicative of our true character. Now, whether Mitt Romney is an actual bully, or just trying to fit in, I have no idea. But judging him on that act alone is unfair.

  5. Your friends comment allows for neither maturation nor repentance. We are all of us born self-absorbed, and only slowly realize that those mobile flesh-colored cutouts which keep getting in our way are really people — with their own desires and needs. No-one is the same person at sixty as he was at sixteen — for which favor we should all be grateful.

  6. I can’t believe this guy!

    ” I will never accept youth as an excuse… and i won’t accept it from him. They are called ‘formative years” because they form us into the adult we will become. ”

    This statment comes across almost equally intollerant. It seems to imply that there is no redemption. If a child, steals a candy bar they are forever a thief. If a teen copies from a classmate they are forever a cheat.

    We might as well close all the jails and march the felons off to slaughter since there is no chance of rehabilitation. Officers should just shoot speeders as they will never slow down.

    What Mitt and/or his classmates did was wrong, but the idea that any person is beyond the ability to change is equally wrong.