It is hard to erase from your memory the mean things you did to a classmate as a teenager, even 40 years later. So, thanks to Mitt Romney, I am facing up and finally apologizing to DH for inexcusable behavior back in middle school.
But somehow it appears the Republican Presidential nominee-apparent just can't recall the bullying episode he led that is seared into the memories of five of his high school friends and classmates, during which they treated a boy so badly that one of them recalls it as "vicious." Another ran into the victim nearly 30 years after the incident and was moved to personally apologize. Yet another confesses he still feels remorse about it.
I have talked to a number of friends since this story surfaced, and almost all of us have a guilty recollection. We haven't forgotten that we were mean to a classmate during our middle school or teen years. Decades later, we wish we could go back and atone.
So it must be a very special kind of person who can either blissfully forgot such behavior, or, alternatively, be the leader of a bullying posse and recall it fondly as just "hijinks and pranks." Even Draco Malfoy remembered his bad behavior and became remorseful as he grew up.
Deflecting responsibility for your own unpleasant actions away from yourself also takes a special kind of personality. Even more unique is the type of personality that allows a person to view the wreaking of havoc on others as a good, maybe even heroic, thing to do.
This is the character type that turns the firing of people into the punch line of jokes. The type of personality that leads one to carve up a company, leave a town devastated and revel in it as a success. The type of self-possession that views churning through companies while shedding hundreds of jobs as an application of "creative destruction."
And maybe it is also the type of world view that enables someone to see cutting basic benefits (like hot lunches and food assistance for the working poor) and dozens of other lifelines needed by our most vulnerable neighbors so that the wealthiest among us can get more tax cuts as a good thing.
None of us can really see into Mitt Romney's heart. And some will just file the bullying incidents away as youthful indiscretion.
But at the end of the day, each of us will be asked to entrust the colossal powers of our country in the hands of one person. We will ask that person to make choices that will call on character time and again. Some of these choices may put our children's lives on the line.
Are we really willing to entrust these lives to someone whose character may not let him really see the impact of his actions on others?
David M. Abromowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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