Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bullying and Memory

When asked about his bullying of a closeted gay student, Mitt Romney “doesn’t remember” the incident, but he’s sure he never thought about the guy being a homosexual. When quizzed over his “divide and conquer” comments, Governor Walker doesn’t remember the details of the conversation, but is sure the context makes it innocent. Uh-huh. Sure. I’m a normal late middle aged adult and I do have parts of my life that I have totally forgotten. That’s why I have a wife with the memory of an elephant. But the stuff I’ve forgotten is stuff that made very small impact on my psyche. Meeting people once and once only. A side trip out of Salina to someplace. Don’t you remember that, she asks. And I don’t. But I do not forget, cannot forget those moments in my life that were truly regrettable. The time when I was in seventh grade when my racist upbringing led me to so fear the first black kid at Budlong that I pulled a knife on him to make him go away. I got a talking to. He got thrown out of school. Later, he confronted me on the street and I was fearful and wanting to run away. He was forgiving. I can’t forget those moments from my twelve year old life. When I was sixteen I behaved obnoxiously in the hallway at Lane Tech High School. I cussed at another student (it was supposed to be a joke). I was loud. I was caught by my homeroom teacher. Sent to the vice-principal’s office I sat that afternoon until after dismissal. Every hour Mr. Mazarakous called me into his office and quizzed me. Did I cuss? No sir, not me. Go back and sit outside. Day two. Did you curse? No sir, not me. Sit outside. Day three. Did you curse? Finally, with some tears in my heart I confessed. I had said “Fuck You” very loudly. I got five days detention after school, scraping old varnish off desktops and sanding off the scribbled in graffiti. Same high school. Jimmy was in swim class. It was an all boys high school and we swam in the nude. Jimmy was embarrassed by his nakedness. He was a little effeminate and all the boys teased him and called him queer. No we didn’t think of him as a homosexual. We didn’t think of him as gay. We thought of him as queer, faggot. He overcame the teasing, went on to become clergy and married. I met him many years later. I did not apologize for me behavior, but I certainly didn’t forget. You don’t forget. If Mitt Romney has really forgotten these incidents of bullying he may be suffering from some sort of dementia. He’s old enough that he might be. Otherwise, he’s lying. Or he was such a bully that his bullying was so common, so daily, that it wasn’t even worthy of remembering. I’m not willing to “give him the benefit of the doubt.” I don’t think that our memory of these sorts of incidents is as fleeting as Romney would have us believe. I agree that they didn’t think about it as homosexuality, but I’d bet a dollar to a donut that Romney and his cohort called the boy a queer, a faggot, a fairy. Just because it isn't pleasant doesn't mean you've forgotten. Just because you got caught telling the truth doesn't mean that you can spin and bully us all into believing you. This isn't the 1960's anymore.

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