The Washington Post today tells a story that opens on a scene that’s almost cinematic in its beauty; Cranbrook Prep School, Michigan in springtime. It is, by all accounts, a beautiful campus befitting the status of its privileged student body. Cranbrook boasts many wealthy and powerful alumni, including Mitt Romney, whose father was then the Governor of Michigan.
Many of Romney’s friends from his school days paint him as a ‘prankster’ and his wife Ann publicly gushes over what a, “Wild and crazy man” she fell in love with during her days at Cranbrook’s ‘sister school,’ Kingswood. But some of his schoolmates don’t remember him quite as endearing. There are stories of institutional racism and faculty endorsed homophobia, that seem almost commonplace in stories of prep-schools of the era.
But far more troubling than hurtful nick-names or sophomoric cat-calls is the story of Jon Lauber. Lauber was a year behind Romney, and described as “soft-spoken,” although that’s perhaps due to his being, “teased for his non-conformity and presumed homosexuality.”
We call that ‘bullying’ nowadays.
At any rate Jon Lauber fell victim to young Mitt’s ire when he returned to campus after school break with his hair dyed blonde and hanging down over one eye. Romney reportedly told his best friend, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney’s anger over another boys haircut didn’t subside over time, and three days later he recruited a group of boys and went after Jon Lauber, he of the offending locks.
What happened next was cruel, brutal and public. At least five former students confirm the story of Mitt Romney and a gang of friends attacking Lauber, wrestling him to the floor and hacking his hair off with a scissors. It was an incident that stayed with Lauber (now deceased) his entire life.
There are further recollections of Romney’s cruel treatment of an elderly teacher, and more homophobic japes, but his outrage and subsequent attack of Jon Lauber stands out in its hatefullness. What a senseless, unnecessary reaction to something that was clearly of no concern to him.
There will be those who will instantly dismiss this as an example of a ‘boys will be boys’ type indiscretion. But Mitt Romney’s seeming revulsion over someone he perceived as different, coupled with the his actions to punish the boy, paint a picture of a person with little empathy or concern; the kind of person who could thoughtlessly strap an animal to the roof of a car and drive hundreds of miles. It is no wonder that man like that, who never needed to work a day in his life, furthered his personal fortune by dismantling the businesses and jobs of thousands of others.
The American people need someone who can understand and empathize with the difficulties many of us face, Mitt Romney is clearly not capable of being that man.