Interesting feature in the Washington Post, highlighted by Talking Points Memo, about Mitt Romney's prep school days. It's full of anecdotes about "pranks," including mean-spirited harassment of a nearly-blind teacher and bullying of a classmate.
We've all done things we regret in our youth. But one anecdote still chilled me. It was about Romney's unhappiness with a classmate who dyed his hair blond and let it grow down over one eye.
“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.
A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.
The story struck me because it brought back high school memories of a lifelong friend who adopted "Beatle bangs" — as a retrograde relative of mine called the hairstyle — about the time the episode in the Romney story occurred. As at Romney's prep schools, the mere sight of my pal's long hair enraged members of the football team and some of the faculty, too. With an assistant principal guarding a restroom door, bullies hauled my friend inside, held him down and butchered his hair, administering a good thrashing in the process. They walked away smirking. Another long-haired friend received similar brutish treatment away from school.
I mentioned a favorite teacher this week, Arkansas native Iris Murphy. One of many reasons I admired her was this: She took a break from Latin declensions one day to decry the persecution of these kids. To our astonishment, our gray-haired magister quoted from a song then playing on Top 40 radio, "Home of the Brave, Land of the Free." It was about pressure on a kid with long hair and funny clothes to conform. "Why won't you let him be what he wants to be?" Miss Murphy quoted from the song. It was heroic in the context of that time and place. (Thanks to wonders of YouTube, above, I can relive it.)
Long hair is safe now. But conformity is no less in demand in some quarters. Romney's past is prologue to his party's modern-day politics.
UPDATE: Now Romney apologizes, sort of.
ALSO: Interesting commentary on Mitt Romney's youth from Josh Marshall. More classmates coming out of the woodwork.