Here’s what happened: A Las Vegas woman whose 4-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet in 2011 asked Yang what he would do about unintentional shootings as president. Yang went into the crowd and hugged the woman. As he returned to the stage, he said, “I have a 6- and 3-year-old boy, and I was imagining …” before he choked up and put his hand over his face to wipe away the tears.
This is a good thing.
I’ve long advocated that politicians showing emotion is something we need more of (not less of) in our politics and our culture. (I initially wrote about it following then-President Barack Obama tearing up in 2016 while recounting the murders of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.)
The reason is simple: We, collectively, need more empathy, more humanity and more authenticity in our world — and especially in our politics. Genuine emotion from a politician is a reminder that they are not all that different than us. They get overwhelmed. They are faced with sorrow and tragedy that the rational mind simply cannot comprehend or compartmentalize. And to react to those moments in an emotional way is a sign not of weakness but of realness.
Unfortunately, there remains some stigma surrounding politicians crying. For female politicians, it has long been unfairly regarded as a sign of over-the-top emotion — and been used to play into sexist stereotypes about whether women are “balanced” enough (or some similar crap) to handle the job as the nation’s chief executive. For male politicians, crying in public (or even in private!) can be seen as an unacceptable lack of toughness and fortitude.
The current President has done much to continue that outdated stereotype. Asked whether he had ever cried by Christian Broadcast Network’s David Brody in the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump responded this way:
“No, I’m not a big crier. I like to get things done. I’m not a big crier. I’m not someone who goes around crying a lot. But I know people like that. I know plenty of people that cry. They’re very good people. But I have not been a big crier.”
And as anyone who even casually follows Trump’s Twitter feed knows, dismissing his political opponents as “Crying” — most notably Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York). Trump has also used “crying” as a put-down for, among others, Glenn Beck, Omarosa Manigault Newman and John Boehner.
This is, in a word, dumb. And in two words: Dumb and (badly) outdated. (Yes, that is technically three words.)
The Point: More humanity, not less, is what we need from our politicians — and from our fellow citizens. The more we can be reminded of what we all share, the better our country and our politics will be.