The tears were flowing, baby. Did you notice?
Why, just in the last couple of days they were on full display in the confines of an august hearing room of the United States Senate. It was dramatic to watch. In fact, what made it somewhat fascinating to me was that these tears came solely from the men.
Men choking up on full public display. Who’d a thunk it?
First and foremost was the nominee for the Supreme Court, of course. But there was also the Democratic senator from Delaware who fought back his own tears while giving an interview. And then there was the Republican senator from Arizona who watched and listened to testimony with great discomfort and empathy. I have to admit I saw no actual tears from him, but it looked that at any minute like some just might come out.
These were all surprises. We still don’t expect men to show such emotion.
The interesting thing is that the one person in the room who I actually thought would shed some tears was the alleged victim, Dr. Christine Ford. Perhaps she didn’t because the setting in which she found herself was so overwhelmingly intimidating that it somehow provided the measure of strength she desperately needed.
She was nervous for sure. One could immediately empathize for her situation in those early moments just before she gave her testimony, when she justifiably had a deer-in-the-headlight look.
Aside from an occasional quiver in her voice, in an earnest manner she answered all questions put to her in short and deliberate responses. She must have instinctively known that she wasn’t just representing herself, but scores of other women who tragically and understandably can relate to what she’s experienced. Teacher that she is, we also collectively received a brief lesson in how brain functions work with memories. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the next trivia night competition at my neighborhood watering hole. “Norepinephrine” and “epinephrine” are staying firmly in my frontal lobe, so to speak.
I found her testimony to be believable and completely sincere.
But what about the men? Was their own display of emotion any less genuine?
We admittedly have become accustomed to watching our public officials show a bit of posturing for the cameras, or go forward with meaningless platitudes that sound nice but ultimately mean nothing. Bill Clinton, for instance, had that robotic biting of his lip down to a practiced art; and don’t even get me started again with the meaningless thoughts and prayers statements we now hear after mass shootings.
With Judge Brett Kavanaugh last week, I think he was being completely sincere at what he feels is a wrongful attempt to impugn his name and character. He arrived at that hearing, as the old expression goes, loaded for bear. I actually don’t for one moment question his sincerity. My personal opinion, though, is that his outrage is more about the validity of whether an episode from his teens should have any bearing on his behavior in the years since, as a judge, husband, and father.
I also feel that he now labors under a heavy burden of shame as it extends to his parents and their role in his upbringing, particularly his mother, in whose professional steps he ultimately followed. His most significant outburst while reading his statement seemed to be when he mentioned his parents (matched closely to the moment he also brought up his daughters).
But do I feel he was being sincere? You bet I do. It wasn’t necessarily the type of sincerity I was hoping to get from him, but it was sincere.
The reactions of Senators Coon and Flake are no less important to me either. If you watch the above video, Senator Coon is clearly struggling with the knowledge that trust, comity, and any attempt for bipartisanship in the halls of government are few and far between on a good day, let alone on this particular one. Senator Flake’s expression is one of utter concern and appreciation for Dr. Ford and her testimony. It was only 24 hours later when he was confronted by two women at a Senate elevator door, which in turn led to his later proposal with Senator Coon.
Of course, one wonders what Donald Trump made of all the waterworks going on at the hearing. The man who famously casts friends and enemies alike as “weak” must have been troubled by seeing his nominee become so emotional in public. When you base all of your important decisions on gut feelings along with a pretty healthy pre-1970’s world view, it must be awfully challenging to hold your fire and not go after all of them for being way less of a man than you think of yourself.
In spite of his public praise for Judge Kavanaugh’s performance, my hunch is Mr. Trump was also turned off by it. You watch, after this is all over we’ll read about how he mocked the judge to others in private.
In a spirit of full disclosure here, my own tears are embarrassingly on display all too often, though thankfully in the privacy of my own home at least. That damn Steve Hartman on CBS News with his On The Road reports never seems to fail in getting me to shed a few. I think it’s a function of age more than anything else. Go ahead, laugh at me if you wish; at this point in life there are far too many other things to worry about than anyone seeing me mopping my face after a sad story.
Probably the only thing any of us learned from this public odyssey is that people did show us their true selves. We may not have actually gotten to the truth, but we did see some very honest emotions that were wrapped up all around it.
Until next time…