Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Don't cry for me, George W.

I've been a fan of Deborah Tannen's for a long time. I've read four or five of her books on communication styles and learned a lot about listening and hearing differences deeper than language.

Maybe she should go back and reread her own 1990 book on men's and women's conversation styles. In that book, she said that neither sex was wrong in its conversation style, just different, and that both needed to try to understand the other, so that better communication would occur.

Well, men's conversation style isn't so good any more:
Perhaps it was not by chance that it was a woman who asked the president, at the town hall debate last Friday, to list three instances in which he had made wrong decisions since taking office. If women react to Mr. Bush's made-no-mistake tactic the way they react to it when it is used by men in their lives, a majority may well be more angered than reassured.
Unless, of course, it's Kerry who doesn't apologize. Because when the microphone passed to him during the debate, he didn't ante up with his own regrets and apologies, but continued point out where Bush went wrong.

Which is exactly why men don't apologize anyway, because their opponents use the apology as an admission of weakness. If men's communication styles are different from women's, it might be because their entire way of relating to each other is different. I learmed that from Deborah Tannen.

Another thing Ms. Tannen may have noticed is that there are no metrosexuals among Al-Qaeda (and I have a hunch that even Jacques Chirac is a metrosexual poser, but a sort of French cowboy deep down inside, like De Gaulle). Al-Qaeda are all MEN (not that there's anything wrong with that), who think of themselves as supermen. Our Islamist enemies hate and disrespect women, and they will naturally hate and disrespect any man who communicates like one.

Of course, they already hate everything about the West, and apologies are not likely to get past that. But respect might get them to back down eventually.

We've had an emoting president, with a trembling lip, and "I feel your pain" (when he wasn't feeling something else entirely), and quick on the draw with apologies. He had more fun as president than anyone else in history, and while he was president, we turned our backs on the action-adventure movie unfolding around the globe and focused on our own little chick flick back home--our eight-year Oprah presidency, with its relationships and betrayal and reconciliation. Then the action-adventure came and bit us in the butt.

Thanks. Now I'll take a president with a steely eye, a set jaw and a willingness to accept the judgment of history.

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