In memory and honor of Senator John McCain
To the Editor:
I would like to share some of my thoughts of John McCain. I would like to start with two quotes from past presidents.
John F. Kennedy said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer nor the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our responsibility for the future.”
John Adams said, “There is nothing that I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.”
These quotes are from two great Americans, separated by almost two centuries. Yet they each sought to reconcile the great divide between the two parties of their time. Vitriol in politics, like many things in life, are nothing new. However, throughout the centuries, Americans have always come together when necessary. Not as Republicans or Democrats, but as one people. Americans. As President Obama said, there is not a Republican America or a Democratic America, there is only America. With the passing of this last generation’s “Lion of the Senate,” John McCain, I would like to propose that once again we are faced with a momentous challenge to our nation. Left and right; Liberal and Conservative animosities are tearing at the fabric of the nation.
Whether you thought he was a war hero or not, whether you liked everything he stood for or not, he always had the best interests of this country at heart. He certainly made mistakes in his years of public service to the nation, but he always accepted responsibility for those mistakes, and learned from them. He was the “Maverick,” voting against his own party when he felt it was the right thing to do. He called ‘em like he saw ‘em. He was a survivor; both as a long suffering POW in North Vietnam, and as a senator. He ran for president and was defeated twice. Those two successful opponents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, will be giving the eulogies at his upcoming funeral. I believe that speaks volumes for the character of the man. He spanned that divide between the parties frequently. How we could use that sense of bipartisanship now.
The man was complicated. He had a temper. But the trials and tribulations he lived through built the true character of the man. Confusion on his being a was hero or not over the last three years stems mainly from the current president stating in 2015 “that McCain is not a war hero, he doesn’t like his war heroes captured.
Words matter. I was personally confused, as I had read the late senator’s biography.
There were two reasons for this confusion. 1) I didn’t really know who Donald Trump was, and 2) the internet was (is) full of websites stating that John McCain was a traitor. In reality, he was shot down over North Vietnam on Oct. 26,1967 on his 23rd combat mission. Everyone needs to read his first person account of his capture and 5-1/2 years of mistreatment. Both arms and one leg were broken in his crash landing. As he couldn’t use his arms, he could only take nourishment when his captors decided to feed him. So, for the first four months, he was essentially starved, losing one-third of his body weight. When he could finally feed himself, they moved him to solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years. During that 24 months he was repeatedly tortured. His captors would break again the bones broken in the crash. They would break most of his ribs, and other bones that were not broken in the crash. Finally, at the point of suicide, he signed a letter confessing to being a war criminal. This, he always stated, was the low point of his life. You and I cannot imagine the pain he suffered, both physically and mentally.
After his “confession,” the Vietnamese came back and asked for more letters of confession. He decided he would rather die than cooperate again. He was to survive the subsequent beatings and starvation and refused all requests for confession from his tormentors. The things they did to him will make your skin crawl. Eventually, the torture stopped and they got nothing more from him. He was finally moved to the notorious Hanoi Hilton, where he was put in a 2’ x 6’ cell without ventilation and starved again. After another 365 days in that cell, the torture stopped and he was finally allowed to live with other POWs. This is now 1971.
He is now down to 105 pounds. He never cracked again, and he refused to be released before the others that were captured before him were set free. As the son and grandson of Navy admirals, he could have gone home many times before he was released in the last group out. He felt it would be dishonorable, and the North Vietnamese would use it as propaganda against the USA. On March 15, 1973 he and the remaining POWs were released. Five-and-a-half years of torture and captivity were over. He returned to active duty and retired from the Navy eight years later. He ran for Congress and subsequently the Senate, and served the state of Arizona for 35 years.
In this land of Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, we have lost all sense of Center. There are few moderate Republicans or Democrats. Hyperbole and falsehoods, hysteria and fear are running rampant in the USA. Both the left and the right are to blame, though JFK sought not to fix blame. One side or the other always trying to gain ascendancy over the other. Where is the room for moderation, how can they pendulum stop swinging from far left to far right? Both sides are terrified to blink first. What’s to become of this great land? A place where for 242 years, people have come to this land of liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In John McCain’s last speech to the Senate last year, he decried all these problems, and said “my friends, we are getting nothing done. And it must stop.”
Bipartisanship has been achieved many times in our history. Sometimes while at war, sometimes when at peace. Lincoln brought Democrats into his cabinet. FDR brought in Republicans. Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan had dinner and cocktails together. Barack Obama had Republican Robert Gates become his Secretary of Defense. And Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal senators of the last century worked frequently with none other than John McCain. This two-party system is what we have, and we must impress on our elected officials that working with the opposition is a good thing, not bad. Whether it is immigration, national security, climate change or taxes, only by working together can we right this Ship of State.
Regardless of party or creed or race, we have to all accept the facts as they are. There are no Alternate Facts. Truth is the Truth. Playing on the fears of others is what’s taking place. And there is no way we can move forward without accepting the changes taking place in this country. We must be part of the world, not isolated from it. Isolationism and tariffs and trade wars have never worked, nor will they ever work.
Speaking last year, in what turned out to be his last public speech, John McCain spoke to the fact that America, under this current administration was abrogating our leadership role in the world, and I quote -- “To fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘The last great of hope Earth’ for the sake of some half baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans have consigned to the ash heap of history.”
R.I.P., Sen. John McCain; true warrior and Patriotic American, we will miss you.