At the end of last week’s column about bullying, for some reason I promised that this week I’d finish with a part two on the subject. What’s next, a mini-series?
I was gratified, however, by the number of reader e-mails from other poor souls who, when they were young, had experienced the wrath of legendary Pasteur Junior High wood shop teacher, Mr. McGraw. Marty S. was a student of McGraw’s five years before I was, and he too made a bookcase. (McGraw obviously had a thing for bookcases.)
More importantly, Marty reminded me of our teacher’s nickname. Missing a couple of fingers, he was dubbed “Three Fingers” McGraw. Suddenly I recalled that McGraw’s missing digits made us students somewhat nervous as he demonstrated safety techniques when using the power jig saw.
Another reader, Ronald G., was a student of McGraw’s 10 years after my stint. All gray by then, apparently one day he drew an Indian on the chalkboard and told the class to stare at it so that the Indian “wouldn’t do a war dance.” (Cuckoo!)
Actually I wanted to do this second column on bullying because many view it as epidemic in our schools. But others argue that bullying is no worse today than ever and that much of the problem is due to “helicopter” parents. (Parents who hover over their kids.)
The latter group would say it’s a tough world and yes, kids get bullied, but they survive. (Or in my example, wind up with two halves of a bookcase.) And to reader Stephanie S., no I’m not playing the “victim card,” I’m playing the “humor card.” In any event, whatever side you’re on, I recommend the DVD of the 2012 movie “Bully.” It’s very powerful.
Speaking of bullying and 2012, the GOP presidential nominee, Willard Romney, has a little history given an incident which occurred in 1965. (Yes, I realize that was a long time ago and Willard was only 18, but that was old enough to be in Vietnam, a war that he’d successfully dodge.)
Willard was a senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. The Beatles were making long hair the rage, which only infuriated the Mittster, especially on John Lauber. He was a soft-spoken new student who was perpetually teased for his bleached-blond long hair and his presumed homosexuality. (Willard has said that, while he can’t remember the incident, he’s quite sure he didn’t know Lauber was gay. Good grief.)
“He can’t look like that,” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend, about Lauber. With Romney as the ringleader, five other students spotted Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. With Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, literally begging for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
The incident was recalled by all five of the others, including a dentist, a lawyer, a retired prosecutor and principal, who gave their accounts on the record independently and are ashamed to this day. One confessed that Lauber was “clearly terrified.” Lauber died in 2004 and, by all accounts, was traumatized by the event.
As with his dog on the car roof, what alarms me is not what Romney did but what he says today. That he doesn’t remember is impossible for me to believe, and were it true, reveals a disturbing callousness. And his “apology” is insulting. Responding to the Washington Post article he said he was sorry for high school pranks that “might have gone too far.”
Pranks? Might have gone too far? In those days, a prank was toilet papering a lawn. When a victim cries and begs for help, that’s not a prank, that’s sadistic. Just as with Seamus the dog, all Romney needed to do was say he was genuinely sorry, end of story. But he’s apparently incapable and his convoluted denials merely set off the Pinocchio meter.
And whose support does Willard covet? Only the quintessential blowhard bully of all time, Donald Trump, fresh from a new round of “Barrack Obama was born in Kenya.” In 2008, candidate John McCain told a supporter that was hogwash, but Willard doesn’t have the integrity to disavow the Donald’s absurd and ignorant “birther” ravings. Instead he says he welcomes Trump’s support. I’m sorry, that shows zero class.
But apparently if a donor gives enough money to Willard’s campaign, he or she gets to have dinner with Trump. (And if they give even more then they don’t have to?)
So, dear readers, this is the end of my bully series. I can say wholeheartedly that despite his snapping my bookcase in two over his knee, I long ago forgave Mr. McGraw. I can only wonder if, before he died, John Lauber could say the same of Romney.
(Editor’s note: This column originally appeared June. 1, 2012.)
When he isn’t busy blasting bullies, Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.