A Sonnet in the Morning

by John Derbyshire

Just a couple arising from the weekend’s Radio Derb broadcast.

• I am guilty of having retailed an urban legend: the one that says Texas has, unlike any other state, a legal right to secede from the Union. Explains one listener:

Your statement that TX has a legal right to secede is incorrect. Despite being often repeated, even by the governor of the state, it is just not true.

I researched it in detail once, and read all the treaties, ordinances, resolutions, etc. involved. It seemed reasonable to me that TX would have demanded such a provision. None of the documents mention anything about such a right. TX does, however, unlike any other state, have the right to split itself into up to five states, if Congress agrees. But then they wouldn’t be TX anymore, would they?

In fact, the Supreme Court case that determined secession by any state is unconstitutional and void involved Texas.

Hmph. I heard it from a well-educated Texan and took it on faith. Last time I do that.

• I had this to say about John Boehner’s hyperactive tear ducts:#more#

And since no-one else has said the following thing, I’ll say it. Boehner’s repeated displays of public blubbing are unsightly, undignified, and unmanly. What on earth must the world think, seeing a grown man sniveling and dabbing his eyes on becoming Speaker — third in the chain of command under the President and Vice-President? For crying out loud, Mr. Speaker … no, as you were: for goodness’ sake, Mr. Speaker, this is the Congress of the United States of America, not a twelve-step program for compulsive tanners. Show a little Republican gravitas . . .

The sheer embarrassing unsightliness of the thing aside, all this weeping betrays a poorly developed sense of proportion. If you burst into tears when Nancy Pelosi hands you the Speaker’s gavel, what do you have left when our enemies nuke Indianapolis, or the dollar is trading at par with the Laotian kip, or your wife leaves you, or the doctor tells you you have terminal cancer?

Other pundits, ever attentive to the lead given by Radio Derb, have come out in agreement, notably Andrea Peyser in America’s Newspaper of Record this morning:

His tears are as undignified as they are unseemly. The wet stuff may be viewed on the world stage as a sign of weakness or lack of seriousness. Not to mention his crying is a tad gross … Tears are for girls, girly-boys and folks on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Get a grip.

Ms. Peyser also made the point I made: that if you tear up over every little thing, you have nothing left for the big things. She: “Another observer pointed out that Boehner’s tears are not spurred by tragedy or terrorist attack …”

There is a contrary point of view: the one that says tears are for the small stuff, or at any rate the medium stuff, while great calamities call for stony stoicism. Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed this in a very lovely sonnet, which fortunately is out of copyright:

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless —
    That only men incredulous of despair,
    Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air,
Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness
    In souls, as countries, lieth silent-bare
    Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death;
    Most like a monumental statue set
    In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet —
If it could weep, it could arise and go.

A fine reflection on private emotion; but tears have no place in public life, certainly not from those in positions of national leadership. Boehner’s a big sissy; a girly-man for a girly nation.

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