Tears before the storm

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

  • The History of Tears: Sensibility and Sentimentality in France by Anne Vincent-Buffault
    Macmillan, 284 pp, £40.00, July 1991, ISBN 0 333 45594 0

It was front-page news in the United States recently when George Bush brushed away a tear as he described how he had wept while deciding to unleash the air war in the Gulf last January. ‘Like a lot of people, I’ve worried a little bit about shedding tears in public or the emotion of it,’ he told a convention of Southern Baptists in June, but ‘as Barbara and I prayed at Camp David before the air war began, we were thinking about those young men and women overseas. And I had the tears start down the checks, and our minister smiled hack, and I no longer worried how it looked to others.’ As his voice broke, and he paused to dab at his check – ‘Here we go,’ he said, with an embarrassed grin – the audience burst into applause. Like the smiles of the minister in January, the cheers of the Baptists in June presumably commended both the President’s war and his weeping.

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