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John Boehner and men who cry in public

By Dr. Jack Kerwick
web posted January 17, 2011

House majority leader John Boehner is all the talk these days.  Yet interestingly, although his is the face of what could very well have amounted to the largest victory that Republicans have ever enjoyed, neither his supporters nor his detractors are talking much about his politics. 

Congressman Boehner, you see, has a tendency to cry in public.  

Republican media pundits like Mike Gallagher and Sean Hannity not only have no problem with this, they have a problem with those who do.  Conversely, Democratic talking heads like the fine ladies of The View are more than a little annoyed by it, and the ever opinionated Joy Behar has gone so far as to call him "the Weeper" of the House.

Upon witnessing this spectacle, anyone with the most superficial of acquaintances with contemporary American politics and popular culture couldn't be blamed for thinking that he had been thrown into a parallel universe.  Yet we needn't resort to science fiction to account for any of this, as tempting as it may be to do so; the phenomenon of Republican men championing the "public crying" of other men, including and especially men in visible positions of authority and power like Boehner, while leftist Democratic women condemn and ridicule the same can be explained in one word: politics. 

Can anyone seriously doubt that if it is was Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or any other male Democrat that indulged his every impulse to blubber, that the women of The View, along with every other woman of the left, would be singing his praises?  Not only does such a man have an unrivaled sense of security in his own masculinity, we would be told, inasmuch as he has succeeded in accessing the feminine dimension of his sexual nature, he has superior wisdom to lesser members of his gender who remain enslaved to an unsophisticated and primitive conception of manhood.

Equally doubtless, however, is that if Boehner was a Democrat, Gallagher, Hannity, and their Republican colleagues would abstain from mocking him just long enough to strengthen their commentary on the "feminization" of our culture by holding him up as an emblem of it. 

That crying in and of itself doesn't compromise one's manhood should be obvious.  Yet I must admit, for the televised exhibitions of men unreservedly spilling their tears to which in the Age of Oprah we are bombarded on a regular basis I have no patience.  Regardless of the man in question, there is something unseemly about the ease, the readiness, with which such men cry knowing that numerous strangers will be watching them.  In fact, it is hard to escape the impression that they cry because all eyes are upon them. 

However emotional Boehner may or may not be in his private life, you can rest assured that had he aspired to his position as Speaker of the House in an earlier era when ideas, not just of masculinity and manhood, but of decorum and self-restraint, were more firmly fixed, he wouldn't have dared to cry to before cameras and recorders. Boehner's public crying on just one occasion, to say nothing of several, would have sufficed to convince the American voters of yesteryear that he is unstable and, hence, unfit for the authority and power that he beckoned them to place in his trust.

And they would have had a point. 

The overwhelming majority of men and women who we see opening their hearts and tear ducts on national television reveal themselves as self-obsessed.  What they lack in self-restraint they more than make up for in their exorbitant measure of self-importance.  What drives them is an unadulterated desire for fame, even if it lasts no longer than the moment and comes at the cost of indulging the most inane of inanities and divulging the most embarrassing of episodes.   

But before the sophisticates at The View and elsewhere please themselves by mocking Boehner, they ought to consider that the latter is the Monster to their Dr. Frankenstein.  After all, the idea that civilization's restraints are burdens that impede the realization of the individual's "authenticity," although it didn't become Western culture's orthodoxy until the 1960's or so, had long been the orthodoxy of the left.  Temperance or self-control, along with all other character dispositions regarded for millennia as the moral excellences of the exemplary man, the left labored tirelessly to expose as mere devices of gender, class, and racial oppression.  The true freedom of the individual—every individual—depends upon his or her "liberation" from these shackles. 

That John Boehner, a Republican that is now the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has hurled off the yoke of some of these antiquated conceptions of manly virtue is as powerful a piece of evidence as any that the ladies of The View and their ideological ilk have been remarkably successful.

Yet maybe, just maybe, now, like Victor Frankenstein, they find themselves marveling at—and regretting—what they set in motion. ESR
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. is the proprietor of the new blog The Philosopher's Fortress which can be found at www.jackkerwick.com.

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