A Complex Act Of Crying

I’ve written before, unapologetically, on this blog, about my lachrymose tendencies: I cry a lot, and I dig it. One person who has noticed this tendency and commented on it is my daughter. She’s seen ‘the good and the bad’: once, overcome by shame and guilt for having reprimanded her a little too harshly, I broke down in tears as I apologized to her; my daughter, bemused, accepted my apology in silence. Sometimes, my daughter has noticed my voice quiver and break as I’ve tried to read her something which moved me deeply; the most recent occurrence came when I read to her a children’s book on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–as I began to tell my daughter about the first time I, as a teenager, had experienced the King legend in a televised documentary. I had to stop reading, hand over those duties to my wife, and watch as my daughter heard the rest the book read to her. And, of course, because my daughter and I often listen to music together, my daughter has seen me respond to music with tears. On these occasions, she is convinced that I’m crying because I’m ‘so happy!’

In recent times the song that has served to induce tears in me almost immediately is Chrissie Hynde‘s cover of Bob Dylan‘s ‘I Shall Be Released‘ at the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in 1997. (Here is a music video of the  performance; the audio can be found, among other places on Spotify.) No matter what, whenever my daughter and I have sat down some evening–in between dinner and bath and story time–to watch and listen to Chrissie Hynde put her unique and distinctive touch on Dylan’s classic (ably backed up by one of the best house bands of all time – GE Smith and Booker T and the MGs among others), tears spring to my eyes. I’m not sure why; the lyrics are powerful and speak to release, redemption, deliverance, and salvation; it is almost impossible for me to not, at this stage, read so much of the song’s message into a promise of kind directed at my way, at my particular ‘prison’–of the self and its seemingly perennial, unresolvable, crises and challenges. Something in those lyrics–and their singing by Hynde–seemed to offer reassurance, kindly and gently, and with, dare I say it, an existential love for all fellow human sufferers.

So I cry. And my daughter notices. She is both delighted and ever so slightly perplexed; this is her father, a fount of both affection and discipline, a man who struggles at the best of times to find the right balance between gentleness and firmness. She is curious, and so lately, when we play the song, she takes her eyes off the screen to look at me instead; she is waiting for me to cry; and on every occasion, I have ‘come through.’ Now, the song has acquired another dimension for my daughter; she wants to play it so she can see her father cry because he is ‘so happy.’ I don’t have the heart to tell her that my feelings are a little more complicated, and besides, it is true, I’m almost ecstatic as I begin to cry, to feel a little more, and to see my daughter break out in a huge smile.

And so now, if I listen to this song by myself, either on video or audio, I cry again, but something has been added to the song: my daughter’s reaction to it, to my crying. Its emotional texture is richer, more meaningful now; now when I listen to it, I see her turn to gaze into my eyes, looking for the first hint of moisture that will tell her that Papa’s reserve is no more. And I know that years from now, when I listen to this song again, I will cry again, because its lyrics will not just carry their original emotional resonance but also the memory of those days when I used to watch and listen to it with a five-year old girl, now grown older, wiser, and perhaps less inclined to spend such time with her father. That knowledge makes these moments even more powerfully emotionally informed; and yes, even more tear-inducing. A welcome situation.

Chelsea Clinton On The Iraq War: A Worthy Inheritor Of The Clinton Mantle

Chelsea Clinton has been groomed for a long time to take over the Clinton Empire. Her education, which has essentially consisted of a long, slow, drive through the salubrious gardens of the Ivy League and Oxbridge, thus providing adequate insulation against the hard edges of social and political reality, form an important component of this preparation. (Her marriage to a hedge-funder, and early entry to the top-dollar speaking circuit, hasn’t hurt.) Her qualifications as Heir Apparent were never better on display than in the following exchange:

“Has your mother shown any remorse for the fact that her vote cost Iraqis a million of their lives?” a student asked Chelsea Clinton on Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ms. Clinton replied: “She cast a vote based on the best available evidence. Perhaps you had clairvoyance then, and that’s extraordinary.”

Some American folksinger once wrote that “you don’t need to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.” Well, I have news for Chelsea Clinton: you didn’t need to be a clairvoyant to see which way an American invasion of a Muslim country in the Middle East, one which had nothing to do with 9/11, would go. You merely had to have the reading skills of a senior undergraduate student, all the better to read a National Intelligence Estimate with, you know the briefings that are given to US Senators to enable them to make, uh, educated and informed decisions with.

As Doug Henwood notes in My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets The Presidency:

Hillary cast her vote for the Iraq War without having read the full National intelligence Estimate, which was far more skeptical about Iraq’s weaponry than the bowdlerized version that was made public. This was very strange behavior for someone as disciplined as Hillary, famous for working late and taking a stack of briefing books home. Senator Bob Graham, one of the few who actually did take the trouble to read the NIE, voted against the war in part because of what it contained. We can never know why she chose not to read the document, but it’s hard not to conclude that she wanted to vote for war more than she wanted to know the truth.

Why would Hillary have wanted to vote for the war, which always looked like being, and eventually became, a moral, political, and economic catastrophe, a crime that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans? Well, at the least, it would have been a politically popular vote, an easy capitulation to expediency, a way to join, and chime in with the warmongering chorus that animated  American politics then. It was a cheap and easy way to proclaim your patriotism, to affirm your desire to exact retributive revenge, to ‘go with the flow.’ It was the kind of thing that a political opportunist would delight in.

It was, in short, a classic, signature, Clinton move. Chelsea Clinton has learned well, and she’s letting us know she’s got the chops. We’re not done with this dynasty yet.