Monday, May 21, 2012

One of Our Own

I was watching that big European soccer match Saturday when I noticed something, and realized I had seen it before, pretty recently. Athletes who mess up, miss a shot, get caught in the wrong place or lose the big game now can be seen doing something that seems a little...odd. They reach for the top of their jerseys, and stretch them to cover their faces, as if this would make them disappear in front of a huge crowd.
I can sympathize a little, because I now recall doing almost the exact same thing over forty-five years ago. I was a competitor in high school debate tournaments. At one event, we, ah, failed to win any of our contests. I was so embarrassed that I spent the 150 mile drive home with an overcoat over my head. For what it's worth, my partner and I did manage to recover somewhat before the season ended.

When it was revealed that Robert Byrd, as a young man trying to jump start a political career, joined the KKK in his home state of West Virginia, voters didn't hold it against him even though the "hate radio" industry tried to exploit it. Bill Clinton's sexual transgressions got more notice, but not so much as to brand him unfit for the White House. Barack Obama's long association with a pastor who sometimes cut loose with what sounded like anti-white rants didn't keep Obama from being elected in 2008.
In light of all these examples, I don't think that Mitt Romney's youthful conduct as an anti-gay bully in a private school almost 50 years ago will carry much weight in the next election.
Even so, I find myself, as a Romney co-religionist, wondering about some things that wouldn't make any difference to non-Mormons.
The LDS Church is not the only one to urge members who have made mistakes to take advantage of the opportunity to repent, but it's spoken about pretty often. Even little children know that this involves trying to make things right with the offended party, consulting with a local leader, normally the "bishop" of a "ward", a local congregation of usually several hundred members, if the offense is a serious one, and resolving to not repeat the offense.
Members wishing to attend the church's most sacred services, held in temples around the world, must qualify through two interviews regarding personal worthiness. These interviews always include the question of whether there are offenses in the past which have NOT been repented of. Interviews are required every two years, so it's certainly not automatic that a member will always qualify.
Mitt Romney was once a "stake president" in the Boston area - the presiding local church officer for several thousand members. He no doubt gave many such interviews, and would know all about LDS standards of conduct.  Bullying isn't on any list of sins for Mormons, but causing others to suffer pain certainly goes over the line except perhaps in war.
Romney, when asked about the incident, knew that there were already five witnesses who recalled him leading a group against a young man thought to be gay, then, while others held him down, cutting his hair with scissors. He had the chance to talk about a youthful mistake, and what he did in order to repent. He could have, in the process, showed himself to be more compassionate than his image.
But if he had any such inclination, it was overruled by the campaign handlers. There was that nervous laugh we've come to cringe when hearing. No, he didn't remember the incident, but he was sorry if anyone was hurt or offended. Anyway, it was so long ago that no one even knew there was such a thing as a "homo-sexual". Heh heh. Any questions on my record as a "job creator"?
As I say, this long-ago incident would not keep Mitt Romney from being elected president. But am I, wrong to wonder about his words when asked about it today? After all, he's one of our own.


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