The XX Factor

Should Obama Cry at the State of the Union?

Hillary did it . So did Bill. John Boehner does it at least twice a day in front of the cameras. But should Obama do it-get weepy in public? According to lacrimation activists Lee Glickstein and Pete van Dyk, the answer is an emphatic, wailing, “yes.” Glickstein and van Dyk run  Men of Tears , a workshop aimed at teaching adult men the art and science of sobbing. For two hours every week, a group of about 10 men of varying ages and occupations-from sheet-metal worker to former karate champion-gather in an empty office, form a “tear circle,” and relearn how to bawl their eyes out. According to the San Francisco Chronicle , Glickstein and van Dyk founded Men of Tears “to provide men with a safe space to tap into emotions they may have dissociated from since childhood, so the next time tears well up, they can well over.” Interestingly, the workshop is an all-male offshoot of a larger Glickstein-backed organization known as WaterWorkers, which “promotes crying as a therapeutic practice.” Proponents of the man-tear movement believe they are “addressing a societal problem,” if not one of public health.

Scientists are mostly in agreement that repressing negative emotion amps up cardiovascular stress and produces anxiety, and long-term stress has been shown to kill brain cells and impair memory function. For men, who learn at a young age that stoicism is tantamount to masculinity, such emotional repression is common, according to Jonathan Bowman, associate professor of communication at the University of San Diego.

I don’t typically take medical advice from doctors of communication, but that sounds plausible enough . While it’s doubtful, as Libby noted last month, that the tears of infamous male weepers like John Boehner represent an earnest outpouring of emotion, the Lacrimists remain big fans of Boehner and other misty-eyed politicians:

[Glickstein] and van Dyk are thinking bigger, calling it a “primary mission” to get President Obama to admit that he cries. After seeing Obama pause for 51 seconds-presumably collecting himself and holding back tears-during a speech Jan. 12 about the Arizona shooting victims, Glickstein wrote a blog entry asking the president to cry openly … “I know he is a compassionate man,” Glickstein says, “and we assume he cries at home. If he admits at a press conference that he cries, that would be a huge step in (ending) the cycle of violence.”

As analysts obsess over this year’s State of the Union address, there’s been a lot of talk of tone, but none of emotion. There’s a chance that some well-timed tears could help the president finally shake off his image as a detached intellectual. But it could just as easily backfire and feed into the lazy stereoytpe of Democrats as effete bleeding hearts who don’t have the stomach for tough decisions.

What do you guys think? Should Obama let himself choke up during tonight’s speech?