Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On tears and a clown

Nut up, ya wuss.

Okay, so Hillary Clinton got choked up at a campaign event.

ZOMG!!111!!one!!! Hilery Clinton haz emoshuns! She cant be preznit!!!1!!eleven!!!

We all saw this coming, right? As soon as we knew we had a presidential race with a viable female candidate in it, the questions flew about whether she'd be the wobbly little creampuff that it's always been assumed a female president would be. Because women are emotional and illogical. Because they get their periods and feel sad about things. Because a woman who was president during a threat to national security would probably, say, get all scared and mad and invade a country that wasn't even involved just to look tough. (Well, okay, not that one.)

And so Hillary Clinton got into the race and was... not emotional. Robotic, even, some said. Harsh. Tough. "Stoic and sharp-edged." Ice-queen-esque with her pantsuits and her unemotionality. The same stability and strength that would have any male candidate declared Reaganesque was, on her, ball-busting bitchiness, because she's a woman, and women are supposed to be soft and nurturing.

But God forbid she should actually have emotions, John Edwards:
“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business,” Edwards told reporters Laconia, New Hampshire.

Now, Amanda reads that as blatantly sexist. I can see where she'd get that, although several commenters on that thread pointed out that the above comment directly followed his stated desire not to comment on Clinton's emotionality. Still, though, it's a shot, one that he may or may not have taken at a male candidate who displayed passion and frustration when talking about his hopes for the country.

Because that's what it was. A lot of people have characterized it as a lot of different things, including calculated histrionics, but watch the video. "You know, I have so many opportunities for this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards." Isn't that something we want our presidential candidates to care about? "This is very personal for me. It's not just political, it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game, they think it's like who's up or who's down. It's about our country, it's about our kids' futures, and it's really about all of us together." Yeah, it is, actually. And if she was tired and a little bit frustrated and her voice cracked when she talked about the stuff that's really important to all of us, can you blame her?

Strength isn't about being unemotional, and toughness doesn't mean not having emotions. I don't think that anyone would call armor-plated steamroller fullback Owen Schmitt weak because, during a moment of elevated emotion, he shed a tear. I suspect that few would think our president any less of a cowboy for welling up at his inauguration, and any demands for a stoic solidity in the face of crisis could be answered with his teary photo op in the Oval Office soon after the 9/11 attacks.

But when a man is overcome with emotion and lets a single, crystalline tear roll slowly down his sooty and battle-scarred cheek, it's handsome and admirable. When a woman, exhausted from intense campaigning and frustrated and worried about the idea that our country is backsliding from its ideals, lets her voice break, just a little, watch out; she's probably about to get her period or something.

Obama is my candidate of choice in the primaries. I'm not voting for Senator Clinton because I disagree with her policies and object to some of the more opportunistic stabs she's made in the direction of the squishy moderate. I'm not not-voting for her because she felt a feeling that any emotionally mature and politically aware person is feeling right now, and I'm not castigating her for expressing that feeling a little bit where people could see her in all of her human indignity. Much better a president who can process his or her emotions, express them, and move on than one who has to sublimate them into violence against thousands of innocent people.

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