Emotional Appeal

October 3, 1951 — Max Lerner (New York Post)

The Mossadegh Project | November 18, 2021                    

Max Lerner (1902–1992) Max Lerner (1902–1992), was a well known journalist, teacher and author with a long running column in The New York Post.

On October 1st, he wrote: “George Kennan’s book on diplomacy, which I had hoped to write about, will have to wait: So also will Mossadegh’s stormy tantrums about Iran’s oil, and Judge Sylvester Ryan’s important decision in the du Pont anti-trust case. This day belongs to baseball and history — and the Dodgers.”

He got to Mossadegh two days later, but went on a tear about crying instead.

What’s Wrong With Tears?

By Max Lerner

I hope that Premier Mossadegh of Iran does decide to make his trip to the Security Council meetings next week. I should like to be there when he pleads his case, not because his argument will be new—it has often been repeated and is almost threadbare—but because I want to see the man who has broken one of the great traditions of politics.

What I have in mind is the tradition that no statesman weeps in public. Mossadegh has cut loose from that with an abandon of which my limited historical knowledge cannot find a parallel. His weeping is not a single incident but a repeated pattern.

There have been other instances recently in which greater or lesser statesmen have broken into tears. The most notable, of course, was the case of Sen. Paul Douglas, of Illinois, who felt his patriotism questioned by a fellow Senator, and rushed off the Senate floor with a scream.

Then there were Brooklyn District Attorney Miles McDonald, and his Assistant DA, Julius Helfand. After working for two years on the case of the corrupt cops, they saw it go down the drain because of Harry Gross’ double-cross; and perceptive reporters noted that as they told Judge Leibowitz their case against the cops was washed up, tears streamed down their faces.

Finally there is New York’s own Mayor Vincent Impellitteri. On a visit to the Sicilian village where he was born, the sight of little orphan girls lined up to sing hymns for him was too much for him; and, wrote a correspondent, he “shed tears for the first time in the memory of his police bodyguard.”

*           *           *

I don’t know whether or not these instances add up to a trend. I hope so. It would mean a breakaway from one of the aspects of our age which frightens some of the more thoughtful observers — the cult of the deadpan.

Obviously there is a reason most of the time for self-control: We don’t want people, and especially our leaders, to be caterwauling every time they make a speech or hold a press conference, and inundating Capitol Hill with their brine. Yet I wonder whether the ideal we have built up of the impassive, unemotional man represents an element of health in our culture.

I agree here with Lewis Mumford, whose current book, "The Conduct of Life" — a deep and moving analysis of the moral ills of our world — slashes away at the sawdust heart of today. “Our fear of emotions,” Mumford writes, “our habit of treating normal emotions as deplorably sentimental and strong emotions as simply hysterical or funny, betrays fundamentally our fear of life.”

In the case of the politicians, maybe all it betrays is their fear of seeming downhearted. The vacuous grin is the standard facial ornament for all Presidents and Presidential hopefuls. How often have you seen a picture of Truman where he was not grinning? Or Dewey? Or Warren? [Harry Truman, John Dewey, Earl Warren]

It would be hard to find among the leaders of today anything like Abraham Lincoln’s portraits of a seamed and harrowed face, that of a man who understood that life is tragic, and that a time when men were killing their brothers was not a time for the unruffled blank stare of impassivity.

Men are killing their brothers today too, if not in America then in Korea and Indochina. [Vietnam] Now, if ever, is the time when a leader’s face should reflect; the fearsome realities, and take on the aspect of a tragic mask.

*           *           *

What’s wrong with tears? Emotions are good if they are deeply felt, not faked, not accompanied by self pity or false heroics. It is as healthy to express emotions as it is to exercise the body and more necessary. Otherwise we shall find that we have produced a type of desensitized man who has lost the capacity for that fellow-feeling which is the meaning of society. Our educational system should educate not only the mind but the human heart as well. Otherwise we shall turn out not men but robots to delight the drill sergeants.

Nor am I talking only of America. The Russians were better people when they used to weep and laugh and embrace, as in their great novels. The new Communist image that is emerging — that of the deadpan Gromyko — is enough to make us shudder. And weep. [Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Amb. to United Nations]

An Australian paper’s bizarre plagiarism of Mossadegh column
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952

Search MohammadMossadegh.com

Related links:

Oil Or Tears For Iran | The Morning Herald (New York), July 17, 1953

William Ritt: You’re Telling Me! | Humor Column’s Iran Takes

Twists and Turns In Policy of Iran | George Weller, March 10, 1967

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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