Maybe you’ll relate to this:
When I was young I probably cried about once a year. When I was in my twenties I cried maybe once a month. In my 30s, something made me cry once a week. Now in my 40s it’s the rare day that goes by when I don’t read, hear or watch something that mists me up.
This is nothing to brag about. What it means is that, increasingly, I refuse to see the world as it is, and instead, see it as a little shake-up snow globe of my own emotional invention.
It’s a sign of self-absorption, which increases with each year we spend in our own heads, drinking too often and thinking too seldom, reading less and worrying more and counting the years we have left to stay solvent and keep out of jail and earn our kids’ admiration at our deathbed.
At least, that’s how I saw the tears of a blubbering mayor of Bolingbrook, Ill. a few years ago, and wrote in Chicago Magazine:
Roger Claar has been crying, on and off. The 61-year-old Republican has spent most of a day and part of an evening telling a reporter his life story: His largely unhappy childhood in Effingham, growing up “a shy, chubby kid in a crewcut with hand-me-down clothes” in what he describes as a “dysfunctional” family with four kids and a mother who “didn’t support” him. His journey to Kansas State University in 1971 to get a Ph.D. (“For a fat little kid from Effingham, that was a bold move,” he says.)
His early career as a school administrator, which led him to take a job near Bolingbrook. His rise from village trustee to mayor, first elected in 1986. His side of the scandals that have dogged him along the way. His political relationships with Republican governors Jim Edgar and George Ryan, which led to a seat on the board of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, where he helped make Bolingbrook the thriving suburban crossroads it is today. And his secrets for bringing in the commerce and housing development that put Bolingbrook on the map.
Almost all these subjects make him emotional.
They make him emotional, because he has, in his moistened mind, organized the entire world into a sentimental feel-good movie starring himself. As we all do, to some extent. But again, not to our credit.
All of which brings us to John Boehner, who seems like an especially acute case. He cannot utter the words “chasing the American dream” without gurgling like a Bunn-O-Matic as he thinks about his own rotten childhood. And don’t get him started on childhood.
“I can’t go to a school anymore,” he confessed Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes” through spasmatic sobs. “I used to go to a lot of schools. And you see all these little kids running around. Can’t talk about it. … Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream. Like I did. It’s important.”
Crying is not a virtue, in men or in women. It’s not exactly a vice either, of course. But you do have to worry about being governed by someone whose view of the world is so subjective, and so sentimental that he cannot see children, whose future is important—without going all to pieces.
Yes, John Boehner can feel.
But, his critics and even his supporters must wonder, can he still think? —DM