The Internet went, well, insane. Opinion split into two camps (what a surprise!). On one side were Democrats and gun control supporters who saw Obama's emotion as evidence of just how personally he is invested in the cause. Obama detractors -- and those less inclined to back gun control measures -- viewed the tears as either ginned up for the moment by a world-class political actor or as evidence of Obama's softness.
I don't have any sort of personal position on Obama or his gun control executive orders. But, I do have a strongly held belief in favor of men -- including male politicians -- crying in public if necessary.
I say this as, yes, a male who occasionally cries in public. (Don't act surprised.) When my son sang in his Christmas carols assembly at school last month, I teared up. When my younger son looks up from his crib and said "You the best, Dad" (in his defense, he doesn't know all that many dads), I cried. I cried at the end of "Spotlight." I choked up when I was speaking at a goodbye gathering for a colleague. (He wasn't dying or anything; he was going to the New York Times.) Hell, I cry when commercials about parents watching their kids grow up fast come on TV.
I am a crier. I don't bawl in public a lot but I probably tear up -- much like President Obama did on Tuesday -- once a week. At least. And, I wear it as a badge of honor. I am, as my wife likes to tell me, in touch with my emotions. I feel things -- sometimes deeply. Put more simply: I am a bit of a sap.
Now, by this point, some of you have undoubtedly condemned my pro-male crying views as nothing more than a thinly-veiled defense of my secret hero Barack Obama. Nope! I am an on-the-record defender of John Boehner's crying too. Boehner, the former speaker of the House, brought male crying into the national spotlight, after all. He cried when Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress last year. He cried in 2011 when he became speaker. He cried in front of Arnold Palmer. This is a man who knows crying. (And, yes, Politico has a photo gallery entitled "15 Times John Boehner Cried."
On a slightly more serious note, only the most cynical among us can truly believe that Obama or Boehner -- or other lachrymose male pols (or people) -- are crying on demand. And, the idea that crying makes you "wimpy" or "soft" feels like a belief from a bygone era. I want politicians who care enough about issues and people to be brought to tears every once in a while. Speaking to a room of people who have lost loved ones to gun violence is an emotional moment -- no matter how you feel about the broader issue of guns. Ditto bringing the head of your faith to Congress, the fulfillment of a lifetime goal.
Being moved to tears is a good thing -- for people and for politicians, who, it's important to remember, are people too, at least most of the time. We could use a little more emotion and feeling in politics after all.