5. The Exploding Veep
The first big dose of revelatory body language came for us the morning of Election Day, when we finally saw the tape of Dick Cheney endorsing John McCain. If you missed it, here's the key moment: At the peak of the speech, Cheney belted out the punchline, "I believe the right leader for this moment in history is John McCain." A split-second after these words left his mouth, he exploded into a coughing fit of epic proportions.
It was as if his body, after a lifetime of concealment and control, could no longer keep from erupting when forced to utter another lie.
4. All The Way Hume
We switched over to Fox News from time to time, in order to get the far-right spin on the events of the evening. We were particularly interested to see what some of their cocky bombasts would look like eating large helpings of crow. In body language terms, voice-flags are those vocal tones and tremors that communicate hidden emotions. Brit Hume's voice-flag was the one that stood out like a sore tongue. Throughout the evening, each time he was forced to announce one more McCain loss, he unconsciously lowered his voice to a sepulchral depth usually reserved for state funerals.
It was as if he was grieving more than the loss of his favorite candidate--he was mourning the declining fortunes of his employer and the movement it has trumpeted.
3. Taking The Tics Out Of Politics
In an earlier post we commented on the stunning array of tics, twitches and jaw-clenches that played across John McCain's face during the campaign. If you study the tape of his concession speech on election night, though, you'll see very little of that kind of body language. Why? Where did it go?
The answer is simple but has profound consequences for health and happiness. The reason McCain's facial flickers were so quiet is that he wasn't trying to be two people at once. It requires body tension to feel anger but pretend it isn't there. It takes effort to seal off fear, and even more effort to whistle along pretending it was never there. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," says the Book of James, and during the campaign, McCain's instability played across his face incessantly. Now, though, John McCain does not have to pretend to be anything he isn't. He doesn't have to be an honorable man trying to live inside his skin with a fear-mongering alien bent on winning by sowing seeds of hate. He's the better for it, and so are we.
2. The Crowd At Grant Park
We watched Obama's victory speech in a room with people ranging in age from 10 to 63, and all of us had tears in our eyes. Looking around the room, we saw the same emotions on our faces as we saw in the crowd at Grant Park. Some of them were crying tears of relief, others tears of pride, others pure elation. Beyond emotion, though, the amazing phenomenon was the size of the crowd. We wondered what other event and what other person could inspire a couple hundred thousand people to stand out in the admittedly not-so-cold (Ed Note: Thanks for pointing that out, JenniferFive!) at midnight. They were there to celebrate Obama and to see history being made, but the looks on their faces told a deeper story: They were there to celebrate the triumph of love and hope over fear and divisiveness.
1. Power, Joy, Grief And Fatigue = One Whole Person
When Obama took the stage, we saw a man embodying a complex array of feeling. He looked tired, of course, and who wouldn't be? A ten-year-old in the room, who hadn't heard of the death of Barack's grandmother, said "He looks sad." It takes a deeply integrated person to let his grief be visible on a night of overwhelming victory. This is a key to his personality, and bodes well for the future of his presidency. It takes enormous strength to let your vulnerabilities rest so comfortably in yourself that they can be readily seen.
There was one emotion we're glad was missing from Obama and the crowd in Grant Park: any sense of triumphant glee. We couldn't help wondering if it would have been present in McCain's supporters had the tables been turned. John McCain had to silence a few boos and jeers from his audience, but by and large they just looked sad, tired and meek.
Finally, we were deeply moved by Obama's body language at the end, in the easy way he brought forth the other members of his and Biden's family to share the stage. He seemed to melt into them, as if he knows deep in his bones that none of this is really about him as an individual ego. There's a huge difference between needing to be the center of things and simply being in the middle of things. Somehow, despite all the adulation and glory (as well as the relentless attacks mounted by the other side) Obama still knows what he's known all along: he's one of us.