I just spent a weekend at a professional development retreat for venture investors. It wasn't about how to be better price negotiators or about tactics for getting dealflow.
It was about investors trying to be better people.
On that journey, there was honesty, and with honesty came pain, and eventually, acceptance. People cried. They asked for help and depended on each other for strength.
I contrast that with our first taste of leadership from Donald Trump--sending his Press Secretary out to try and convince the public that the inauguration was better attended than it was.
His dishonesty wasn't just with us, it was with himself. His insecurity was so powerful that it was painful to watch. I found myself shifting from anger to pity--pity that he has to live with himself, alone in a shell of lies that he not only tells others, but himself. Watching him lie is like watching someone stab themselves over and over again.
That gut wrenching feeling isn't being inflicted on me by him--it is my empathy feeling what it must be like to be him. I can only withstand a fraction of the pain his insides must endure.
Donald Trump isn't the strong leader he aspires to be--he is the weakest form of leader, because he clings to outdated masculine ideals out of place and out of touch with the modern world.
We know now that he is not alone. His pain resonates in great numbers.
So many men who grew up being told that their worth was in their ability to provide, to be strong, to not cry in the face of pain, and to be protectors, find themselves hopelessly, and dangerously, lost.
They voted for Trump in the hope that they could turn back the clock--that emotionless physical strength, the kind that proves itself by being unyielding, by eliminating opponents in a zero sum game, could still win. If they could reestablish a real *man* at the top, they might be able to turn the world back to a place that made sense to them--and to put a lid on their innermost feelings of pain and fear threatening to escape.
Hillary Clinton wasn't a threat because she was a women--she was a threat because she was feminine. She endured pain and embraced it. She turned the other cheek to a cheating husband and forgave. Both women and men held her association with Bill against her--as if those trying moments in life ever have clear and perfect answers.
She might have won more votes had she taken Bill out back and shot him.
She listened first--asking others for help before forming her opinions. She reconsidered her stances when new information emerged.
Leaders don't change their mind or reconsider--not if they want to be strong.
This is not what men do.
So many men had a similarly hard time with Obama--and why they elected Trump in response. He was comfortable enough with his own sense of self to display emotion--a taboo in a world where people of color who share their feelings are derided as "angry black people". Many felt that Obama was weak, because he cried over gun violence--our symbol of American strength.
A sensitive, weeping black man that cried about guns and tried to make peace with Iran versus wiping them off the map was a threat to so many layers of monolithic American masculinity standards that one could lose count.
This is not what men do.
"What men do" is what Trump does--deny, lie, fight, bully, shout, all while dating supermodels and showing off their wealth--their hollow, empty, meaningless wealth that never seems to be enough.
Watching Trump as President is like watching a movie caricature brought back from the past struggling to come to grips with the fact that the world has changed--a caveman, a knight, a cowboy. His friends are dead and he doesn't understand this new and confusing place. He acts out, making a mess and embarrassing himself in the process, and he is shunned. There has been no greater shunning of a candidate in modern history and he knows it--which is why he is so preoccupied with remind us that, the way the game is set up, he won.
Undoubtedly, it's how so many men feel today in a world unfamiliar to them.
Trump and his fury doesn't belong any more than these masculine ideals. Our world has complex social problems that require unity and compassion, not the biggest bomb or the most tanks. He is no more the answer than a bottle or a gun, but there is no denying that both provide comfort and the power to escape, even if it doesn't last.
Trump will not save these pained men. How can he face these difficult challenges if he isn't strong enough to cry? Our issues around violence, poverty, and disease fail to upset only those who cannot understand them.
Could you even imagine such a thing--the man who can't be around crying babies or who accused news anchors of crying on election night, as if there was something wrong with that?
How many times do you think he was yelled at, or beaten for crying as a child? He was schooled in a military academy known for its abusive environment.
How many of his supporters who accuse liberals of crying experienced the same kind of threats and experience of violent punishment?
Unfortunately, women will not save us from these men. They cannot, on their own. They do not hold nearly enough positions of power. They are hamstrung by a system rigged against them, intentionally.
But the feminine--the feminine will save us all.
Our only way forward is with empathy, collaboration, and long-term thinking. We need the strength to admit and undo our wrongs, to accept help, and to engage in dialogue with and find common ground with those who oppose us--to co-exist versus dominate. We need these "feminine" traits to emerge and be embraced in all of us, particularly our men.
We need to teach our children to embrace that which we do not understand as a lifelong study, not with gut reactions. We need to set that example for them.
We need to care for the weak and the oppressed. Their struggles are our own failures--because we are in this together. They are not to be blamed and forgotten about.
We need to embrace change--because things change, and we must change with them.
We need to admit that tears are the appropriate response to tragedy. They are a sign of human capable of the fullest extent of emotion, which is the only kind of human with enough resolve and strength to find solutions.
Anyone else will crumble into the dust from which they came, becoming a relic of an idealized but problematic past.
** Thank you to Jerry Colonna for inspiring the title of this post and for helping me create the space, both physical and emotional, to explore these emotions.