Friday, May 11, 2012

Portrait of the Smartass as a Young Man

If, when you were 18, you had pounced on a classmate and, while your friends held him down, cut off his bleach-blonde hair even as he cried and screamed for help - would you forget it?

Neither would I.

The things we remember best are those that made us experience a surge of emotion, and surely Mitt was feeling something during his sadistic "rape of the lock" on the shy new kid in school, John Lauber.

So Mitt is a big fat liar.

Politician caught lying! Stop the presses!

No, wait; it's a general principle of mine that no politician who told the truth about everything could get elected in this country.  We demand that our elected officials lie, or we wouldn't vote for them.  The weakness here is not as much in our leaders as in ourselves.  (On this point, see Culture World 9/25/10.)  Although, I would have to say that compulsory lying ordinarily involves policy positions, not the covering up of sadistic bullying.

Obligatory lying by candidates is perhaps more common today, now that ideological purity has taken on, for many voters, a kind of religious quality.  And by many voters, I mean particularly the Taliban-like right wing of the GOP.

But back to Mitt: even more troubling than his dishonesty is his incapacity to connect with people he regards as different.  When he brutalized John Lauber, Romney was acting on the assumption that people had to be like him before they deserved his sympathy, and if they didn't act like him, they could be humiliated and coerced in any manner Mitt and his gang found efficacious.

According to one of his classmates at Cranbrook, when Romney saw Lauber with his avant garde haircut, he said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out that people whose personalities are prone to conservatism are less open to new experiences than are liberally inclined personalities, and are more likely to be disturbed by those whose behavior is unconventional.  In light of this, we might conclude that Romney is, after all, a genuine conservative and a pretty severe one at that.

But most conservatives are not so disturbed by those different from themselves that they would launch into attack mode and sadistically torture a fellow soul as he cries and screams for help. This is the reaction of a young man so afraid of people he regards as "different" that he can't tolerate their very existence.  And a young man arrogant enough to feel that he has the right to lead a cleansing posse to rid the world of those with whom he can't identify.

Well, bully for you, Mitt.  I daresay you would be a better man had you been on the receiving end of the attack you engineered against John Lauber.  It might have made it easier for you to understand people who are not in a position to own a couple of Cadillacs or hit their parents up for a $20,000 loan.

So, you've had it pretty easy, apparently feeling you've deserved everything you've been handed in life.  And I guess you've always felt you could have your way.  Bully for you.

But please, don't expect us to believe you when you claim you don't remember how you traumatized young Mr. Lauber.  That's one bloody spot that will not easily be washed out.