Obama, Crying

While plenty of people criticized President Barack Obama’s speech yesterday—“I react not as a President, but as anybody else would—as a parent"—I was less bothered by what he said than I was relieved by what he did: choke up, take a minute to gather himself and, through the rest of the press conference, wipe back tears. Of course, I thought. Crying is the appropriate response to have to a day like this.

Mia Farrow tweeted that it was the first time she’d seen an American president cry, and she might be right. It’s a significant step. In most of politics, and most of public life, we’ve been taught that emotion is the opposite of reason, that our feelings will cloud our judgment, and that the last thing an American president should ever do is trade swagger for sentiment. It was this view of emotion, of course, that helped justify the barring of women from public office. She just can’t handle it, was the refrain. The view of women as inherently more emotional than men is one feminists have been fighting for years, but just as important a fight is one over the view that our feelings somehow don’t belong in reasonable discourse. Where else should we start in our policymaking and our response to horrific events, if not at a basic empathy for our fellow citizens?

It was Obama’s empathy that made him presidential: the deep feeling he had for his own American story and how it fit with our country as a whole. He deployed it when he gave his "A More Perfect Union" speech on race in Philadelphia in response to the Jeremiah Wright scandal, and it has popped up in speeches in a thousand little ways since then. Bill Clinton did it before him, but Obama, as a thinker and figure, cut a sharp contrast to Mitt Romney and his mechanical view of a hierarchical leader. I never had any doubt that he had done good works in his church, as everyone testified, I just doubted that he was capable of the sort of—tenderness, I guess, is the best word—that Obama occasionally exhibited. It seems to come from a fundamental respect for the people he hoped to represent; Romney, in his most private moments, exhibited only contempt. I thought of that again when I saw Obama tear up. How nice it is to have a president who’s not afraid to cry.

Obama’s presidency has always felt, to me, the end of a sort of misogyny in America’s highest office. Obviously, we still have a long way to go. Only 20 women will be sworn into the Senate when the new class convenes in January, and Obama beat out our most likely female presidential candidate yet in 2008. But when Obama talks about a hypothetical child who wants to grow up to be president, he uses the pronoun, “she.” When he talks about his wife, he talks about a partner and a friend who does important work, he doesn’t thank, Romney did, wives “for taking up their slack as their husbands and dads have spent so many weeks away from home.” It may be appropriate in the long term for Obama to act more like a president than a parent, but when Obama said it, and began to cry, we know that he meant that he really understood.

Comments

Yes, I agree. Thank you for writing this down!

I agree, too. I certainly hope that Obama (and others) will react in serious policy terms, and very soon. Not at this moment.
And it wasn't the tear he wiped away that got to me. It was his inability to speak. That place of silence, horrible but also reverend, is where we can all join together. Where we go from here -- that can wait till Monday morning. (Though I am glad for those beginning to speak up already, thereby ensuring, I hope, that Monday morning conversation.)

So is this the same Barack Obama that routinely orders drone strikes to kill "bad guys" and innocents alike by remote control, collects "baseball cards" of people on his kill list, and watched the killing of Osama bin Laden on a live closed circuit satellite feed like it was the Final Four?

Do brown children killed in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by his Nintendo war deserve tears?

Apparently not.

Sorry folks, but B.O. was NOT crying. In fact it took six hours for him to have someone write his "speech" after the shooting and there were no tears, just a fake wipe of a dry eye.

This shooting has become his political agenda to continue to take away the rights of Americans. He wants to make our country communist and we will soon have no constitutional rights.

As soon as our weapons are taken from us, our freedoms will disappear. Without the right to bear arms, we have no rights at all. Our country was built on the Right to Bear Arms, Right to Free Speech, Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.

Of course I am mad as hell the children and teachers were murdered. And yes, taking of his weapons of choice, a gun, MAY have stopped this masacre, or it MAY NOT HAVE. There has already been a bomb scare at a church down the road from the school.

People are going nuts all around and it isn't just people with guns. Chemicals, bombs, knives, ropes, and cars are all weapons. Where will those items go?

Goodbye Civil Rights.

Yes, you're absolutely right, this clown may have killed 27 people in some other manner, sneaking from door to door, hiding under their beds, then, once they were asleep, smothering them in their sleep with a plastic bag. No question he could have done that.

In your freakin' dreams, that is.

Look, there is exactly zero chance that there will be any substantive result from this incident, just like the one before that and the one before that and the one before that, not to mention the one that will come in the next few weeks and the one to follow in the next few months, etc., etc., etc.

That's simply the price of admission to the national freak show that we call modern America. But, hey, why stop with guns? Why not bombs and personal chemical weapons? After all, the Second Amendment says "arms" not "guns," so why shouldn't we have access to constitutionally protected weapons of mass destruction, too? A nuclear armed socieity is a polite society.

What's a little collateral damage in the pursuit of FREEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOMMMMMM!

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