Saturday, May 12, 2012

High School

Just when it seemd as if American politics could hardly get more pathetic, along comes the latest story about something Mitt Romney allegedly did - almost 50 years ago! in High School!
Now I have no interest in defending Mitt Romney from anything. Given the absurd stuff he and his supporters have been peddling about the President, perhaps his campaign deserves to be on the defensive about more than just how he has treated the family dog! Even so, with all that whoever is sworn in as President of the United States at noon on January 20 will have to deal with, is this really what we need to be talking about?
The narrative being promoted by this story is, of course, that Romney is a privileged snob and a bully. It's a fair enough accusation - assuming it is based on his adult actions. And there exists a record of his adult actions - in business, at Bain Capital, for example, and in politics, as Massachusetts Governor and as a political candidate off and on since he ran against Ted Kennedy back in 1994. There is plenty there to judge the man on. No one should need to dredge up teenage behavior (or misbehavior) to confirm - or contradict - a candidate's public record as an adult.
I didn't attend a fancy prep school myself, but I did endure High School in the early 1960s.  I survived, obviously. But it is not an experience I would want to repeat - or recommend to anyone else. Not that my particular High School was all that particularly bad. It had its really horrible moments. But, on balance, the overall experience was tolerable and even had its occasional happy moments. Best of all, I formed one good High School friendship that has lasted to this day. Given who we were at the time and what the world was like then, it was probably as good as it was going to be. That said, High School is something basically to be endured until one can move on with one's life. I'm too far from the contemporary High School experience to compare, but my guess is that, on balance, being a High School students may be even more stressful today than it was then. In any cae, those who survive High School and succeed in life (however one defines success), do just that. They move on. They become adults. And it is as adults that they should be judged. (In 2005, I attended my 40th High School reunion - the only such reunion my class has ever had. I went in part to see people most of whom I had not seen in 40 years, expecting to meet not 1960s teenagers but the adults they had become - and trusting that they would accept me in turn as the adult I had become).
When I was in High School, bullying was just taken for granted as normal part of adolescent life. Those of us who were not privileged may have wished it were otherwise, but but that was the way it was. One could say something similar about homophobia, except for the critical fact that homophobia hadn't yet been invented as an issue. The psychologist George Weinberg is generally thought to have invented the word in 1969, and he certainly employed the term in his subsequent book Society and the Healthy Homosexual (1972). As I recall, the word really became common only in the 1980s. In any case, the concept - and certainly any significant social disapproval of the attitudes and behaviors it describes - none of that was part of the picture in the early 1960s, when the word "gay" could still be used (and routinely was) in its orginal, non-sexual meaning. As for homosexuality, it was  generally thought of (when people thought about it at all) as a sin - or, in more enlightened and liberal circles, as a sickness for which some psychiatric therapy might be helpful. To expect Mitt Romeny as a 1960s teenager to have been able to see into the future and understand that decades later as an adult he would be expected to adopt a different views on the subject of homosexuality is as ridiculous as to fault Barak Obama, as a boy in Indonesia, for having eaten dogmeat because decades later some might make an issue of it!
Who these two men have become, the way they have opted to live their adult lives, the personal and political choices they have made, and the policies they advocate - that is what this election ought to be about.

No comments:

Post a Comment