You don’t see it straight away. Barack Obama’s large, delicate hand, wearing a wedding ring, obscures some of his face and draws your attention away from it. However, it is clear to everyone that there is a glimmer of wetness below his left eye. And this cannot be confused with the somewhat glossy aspect of the rest of his skin. Flowing along a reddened shadow, tracing the natural pathway of his cheek, the president’s shining tear is there, as plain to see as the nose on his face. What is this? Is the head of state of the most powerful country in the world feeling a bit emotional? Is the leader of the American army unable to hold back his emotions? Has he blown a fuse?
On Jan. 5, 2016, live from the White House, Obama touched upon the murders of the innocent children of Sandy Hook to pass a series of measures aiming to limit firearms access, an important political issue before we assess his two terms in office. It is not an easy task to constrain the sale of arms in the country of Dirty Harry, the Terminator, and legal websites that sell arms online, with hundreds of thousands of advertisements. Guns, cartridges, rifles and silencers are being sold by your neighbors just around the corner from you. In a country where Congress agrees with the firearms lobby, you must put yourself on the line to pass on the message, and Obama must go to the front. Because of that, he chose to oil the wheels of his speech by shedding a little tear … or even a big one.
This isn’t the first time that he has cried. The American president could even be called a real crocodile. In 2012, he wept during a campaign speech while talking about the future of America’s children and shouting “You can make it here in America if you're willing to try.” When he cries, it is always over a child suffering; each time he brings up the Sandy Hook elementary school killings in Connecticut, and its victims “between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.” The president lets his emotions pour out. His tears have even become a habit. During a recent concert, while listening to Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice singing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” the president was overcome. Is he lowering his guard? Is he sad to be leaving power soon? Is his testosterone rate, the hormone which supposedly inhibits tears, in freefall? Yet he still has not changed gender, sexually speaking. He is still a political animal. Beneath the flood of lachrymal liquid contained in his large body as a public figure, there is not only a crocodile, but also an alligator.
This week, emotion has been part of the strategic arsenal. As an ingenious performer, Obama uses one weapon among many: tears to combat weapons. In a fight, crying often paralyzes the enemy and stops aggression. It’s a well-known strategy for children. As a sign of vulnerability, Obama is making a start on a rapprochement with the people in order to get their support for his politics. It is also fashionable in the art world. Marina Abramović showed that men cry as easily as women in her performance “The Artist Is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. As it says in a Jules Verne novel, “You have become a man again, while you cry,” which, out of context and in all circumstances, works for us. Gentlemen, get out your tissues.
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Launched in 1973 by Jean-Paul Sartre and a group of like-minded left-wing intellectuals, Liberation was aimed at the “1968 generation” – those who felt frustrated by the slow pace of social change in France and wanted a paper with an alternative outlook. What started off as a radical chic publication moved closer to the mainstream from the 1980s onwards, and by January 2005, when the banker Edouard de Rothschild became the main shareholder and invested 20m euros (£13m) in the title, the process of counter-revolution seemed complete. A restructuring plan proposed by Rothschild gave rise to protracted and acrimonious battles with staff, and many of Liberation’s most respected journalists left the paper.