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The president’s body language, post-Charlottesville

I’ve been watching the president’s hands lately. He’s doing something different with them. 

I’ve been watching the president’s hands lately.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Listening includes watching. Do the words match the body language? If they’re different, what does the body language tell us that the words do not?

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart

I’ve been watching the president’s hands lately. He’s doing something different with them. With palm facing the rest of the world, his fingers are spread apart, as when one pushes someone or something away. Other times they seem to be waving something away.

There are fewer closed circles with pointed fingers, although they still appear at moments that are just as telling as his facial expressions.

Every one of us is a community of voices from the past — the community of DNA and family culture — and it is not unusual for the voice of a father to shout in a son’s ear even at the age of 71.

When one grew up in the shadow of a father who had been arrested and discharged, rightly or wrongly alleged to have marched with the KKK, and years later had been investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for alleged wartime profiteering and by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division looking for civil rights violations, what is the son to say and do following the nation’s focus on Charlottesville, Virginia?

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Publicly slap his father, give him the back of his hand? Defend him by feuding again with the “faux media” that wrongfully accused his innocent father of being a KKK marcher and white supremacist? Push the rest of the world away from the family whose patriarch’s reputation as a tenant landlord drew the scornful attention of Woody Guthrie?

Only Donald Trump or members of his closest family can tell us. But, like most families, this one knows how to keep its secrets.

For the nation’s sake and for his, one might pray and hope that those within Trump’s closest circle — not the circle of his public persona of closed certainty, but the intimate circle of those who know him best and love him — will take the president’s hand the way a mother takes the hand of a frightened child and walk him to Trump Tower … or to a hospital where he can get the care he needs.

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, a minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), is the author of “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness” and host of Views from the Edge. He lives in Chaska, Minnesota. 


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