I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. With My Fists.


So I had C-Span on this AM so that I could watch Mitt Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University.

Make of my sanity from that what you will.

But I was early, or Liberty was late, so, in the interim, I heard a series of calls from C-Span’s morning call-in program.

The conversation centered on the Washington Post’s article this week on Mittens’ dumbassery at a high school student, which, according to the article, centered on at least one occasion on physically assaulting a younger classmate whose haircut Mittens didn’t like.

So he gave the kid a new one. You know, while his buddies were holding the kid down, ignoring his crying and screams for help.

Totally normal behavior. For a sociopath.

Anyway, Steve from Haymarket, VA came in on the Republican line.

And Steve? Couldn’t see what the big fucking deal was about. Because, he argued, he’d been bullied at school, during his time at a military academy. No, not bullied, he said: hazed.

And that hazing had, he claimed, been just awesome for him. Being bullied makes you butch, makes you tougher, he argued. Turns you into the man you’re supposed to be. That’s what it did for him. Getting the snot beat out of him convinced him to take up weight lifting, exercise, blah blah blah macho, and goddamn it: Steve from Haymarket was grateful for it. And he didn’t understand why the kid that Mittens and his buddies “hazed” wouldn’t have “manned up” under such treatment.

Now what struck me wasn’t the bullshit notions of masculininty, or of what it means to be a “man.” How you become a man–through physical violence and intimidation, apparently.

It was that, for Steve, Romney’s participation in this kind of behavior–which Mittens hasn’t denied–is a good thing, is a selling point for Steve on why Mitt is the Right Man for the Job.

To be a man, it seems, means you have to be willing to beat masculine conformity into the bodies of others who are failing to live up to your expectations.

So what does that mean for a guy who wants to be the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military in the world? What about from a diplomatic perspective? Are “real men” only those willing to wage war, to push the physical assault of one kid out onto a multinational stage?

Certainly, I don’t care for Mittens, and I–like most people, I imagine–was bullied in high school. Not physically, for me, but bullied nonetheless. And over what my would-be tormentors perceived as my being a “lesbian.” Now, mind you, at my wee little high school on the edges of the East Coast Megalopolis, there were no constructive discussions of gender and sexuality, more out of ignorance, I think, than any sort of malice. I doubt the morons who tried to give me a hard time [in French class, no less! I think that’s my favorite part, in retrospect] even understood what a lesbian was, other than, perhaps, a girl who didn’t look “girly” enough to them.

So all that said: I’m not with Team Mitt on this one. [Or any one.] But I’m more freaked out by the notion that some people would see this kind of asshattery as a sign of Mittens’ leadership potential, of his potential awesomeness as the leader of the free world. And I wonder how many of said people would also claim to be “Christian,” to be followers of a religion that, ostensibly, is all about treating your fellow humans with dignity and respect.

Not sure what to make of that, exactly. But it doesn’t feel like something good.

One thought on “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. With My Fists.

  1. ghostwiring

    I’m so glad you wrote this. Thank you. As someone who is a rare oddity in that I’ve never had the experience of being bullied, the whole notion has been largely alien to me. I have, however, been in the lives of men who have been bullied and seen the scars firsthand.

    My brother who, like most big guys is a gentle giant, just took off the gloves one day and whooped up on the two, much smaller, boys who were picking on him, but leaving his tormentors in a bloody heap didn’t fix the problem or make him feel any better, because the scars bullies inflict aren’t physical. They’re deeper than that. To this day, I still hate that I wasn’t around to help fix what was going on with my little brother. I know he had to fight his own fights, but the older sibling in me just wants to be the Hammer of the Gods in situations like that.

    One of my dearest still carries the wounds from childhood bullies, and he just turned 50. Only recently, in his 40s, did he really start to confront what that experience did to him that made him continue to carry the hurt little boy version of himself well into adulthood — and continue to wear that child more often than he wore the man he’d become. Not living up to some heteronormative version of manhood from an early age caused him to live in fear and anger and self-loathing and insecurity, and it has been awful to watch. Only with some love and loyalty and pushing out of the comfort zone has he really started to flourish and feel confident and competent in middle age. Part of me still wants to rush in and fix things for him sometimes, but I force myself not to knowing that that just prolongs that bullied child’s pain of feeling weak and helpless. Most of me wants to get in a time machine and travel back 40 years and beat the living snot out of the unhappy, misguided, insecure little jerks who hurt him, but that would solve nothing, either. So, I just unclench my fists and lay my hands on him, instead. That’s the only way I know how to fix it.

    I think it’s important, nay, crucial that we shame the shit out of Romney and men like him for this behavior. Picking on others is neither macho nor butch (not that either of those are qualities I look for in people, much less leaders), but rather weak and stupid and pathetic. If anything, it should make people want to support him as a person or a candidate even less. It’s obvious that Romney is a petty, cruel person lacking in empathy for his fellow man and the rest of God’s creatures. He’s a fool and and idiot and a hypocrite and a mean little boy in a suit. It’s the job of every kind, enlightened, progressive person to stay on this issue and not let who and what he really is and the damage people like him can really do drop from the public eye or national memory.

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