School is where we learned a lot of basic truths. Not just algebra and biology, but truths about people and ourselves. School is where we learn about bullies. Grades 1-6 are the open, seeking, questioning years. All our emotions, a whole lot of these, are fleeting, although really powerful. Grade school bullies can be forgiven, mostly they get forgotten. Grades 7-9 is the mean time, where experiments in friendship and courtship, infusions of hate and envy and love overshadow the classroom. This is where the real bullies learn their trade. But junior-high bullies can also be forgiven. Here is a crucible of jokes and fights, of being in and out, a taste of loneliness and of the sting of unfairness, and lessons learned about becoming a person. Junior high is a chrysalis between our infant days of yore and the adult life ahead. Even bullies can emerge as somebody better. High school is where we sort things out. This is where we know who is who. High-school bullies have a lot to answer for. At best, we remember them with bitterness. Mostly we despise them. They are the people we wonder about at the reunions, hoping that they’ve somehow gotten their comeuppance. They are what the word “comeuppance” was designed for.
So I read a story about a high-school bully. This kid has a rich and famous dad, and can attract a lot of wannabe friends. This kid has all the opportunities to flourish. But instead, he’s a bully, and a bit of a coward too it seems. I read that he didn’t like another kid who had long hair. My guess is that he might have wanted long hair too, but dad wouldn’t approve. So this bully, he gets three or four buddies, some of them athletes, and he takes this pair of scissors, and they go hunting for the “hippy.” They find him, and the friends grab him and hold him down on the floor, screaming. The bully takes the scissors and gives him a brutal haircut. The bully and his friends get away with this, how? Maybe the hippy was stronger than they were and refused to rat on them. Maybe the bully’s family had too much money.
It’s more than forty years later, and this bully is now famous. There is no indication that he’s ever really gotten any kind of comeuppance. In fact, he’s running for President. He’s Mitt Romney and he wants our vote.
I’m not arguing here about political platforms and positions. I’m saying that I knew bullies like Mitt when I was in high school. I think we all did. And if I just take a moment to think about any one of them, I’d have the same reaction: “Vote for you? Vote for you? Listen up Mittens, I’d much rather vote for that hippy kid, who, in all likelihood had way more class than you ever will.”