Monday, August 27, 2018

Maverick, Legacy, and Remembrance - Updated

Senator John McCain passed away Saturday, August 25, 2018, at the age of 81 from complications from aggressive brain cancer.  Nicknamed "maverick" McCain was a known iconoclast, someone who would step across the aisles and vote his conscience regardless of party direction, a trait which has gotten him praise and derision.  A decorated war hero, long term senator from Arizona, and presidential candidate, McCain's legacy and life has been celebrated and remembered over the past few days by his rivals and contemporaries.

President Obama offered his thoughts and condolences through a statement released on Twitter.

Likewise, President George W. Bush released a statement through his Presidential Center.

"Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended.  Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled.  John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.  He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country.  And to me, he was a friend whom I'll deeply miss.  Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathies to Cindy and the entire McCain family, and our thanks to God for the life of John McCain."

A contemporary and a rival, both of whom offer statements of condolence that are heartfelt and personal.  They check the boxes that we expect for etiquette and class.  The statements put the focus on the life that is being remembered, they speak to commonality, they speak of appreciation of the life lived, and they offer their condolences and sympathy to the family.

It is apparent why both former presidents have been asked to eulogize McCain at his funeral.

There is a different response that has developed over the weekend.  A specific contingent online that has responded to the news of his death with near glee.  Who have added their comments to every news announcement calling McCain a traitor or worse, ostensibly for his votes against the Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare and opposition to the president.

And the condolences from our current sitting president seem to reflect their continuing feud.
The official White House tweet is a picture and the dates of his life.  There has been no official statement to date.
His Instagram post is even more interesting version of his tweet.

A picture of Trump instead of any image of John McCain.  Condolences and sympathies only, no recognition of John McCain's service of any kind.  And this among reports that President Trump nixed issuing any statement from the White House that praised the heroism and life of McCain, telling senior aids he preferred to issue a tweet.

The feud between McCain and President Trump is well documented, but this kind of response seems petty, even for Trump.  We bemoan the death of civility, but this seems to speak volumes of where we are as a country.  Now, I'm not one that claims you cannot speak ill of the dead.  If someone was an unrepentant monster on earth, they do not magically become praiseworthy because of their death.  No one is looking to praise Hitler, in other words.  But we generally do recognize the works of a person's life when they pass.  We evaluate and point out the good they have done.  We recognize that though we may have disagreed with them on certain other things, we can still point to the good, the positive in a person's life.  And there was much that can and should be recognized in John McCain's life.

In light of all the circumstances, perhaps it is better Trump's response was brief and expressed direct condolences.  It is preferable to the other vitriol that has been spewed over the weekend, truly representing the worst of our basest instincts.

But it should make us stop and think:  how do we want to be remembered?  And how do we remember those who go before?  Can we all come together in recognizing the abhorrent responses and comments that have arisen over the weekend as unacceptable?  And shouldn't they be unacceptable in most any circumstances, not just in the wake of someone's passing?  Will we ever be able to disagree with each other without demonizing the other side?

McCain will be remembered well and this unpleasant response will be but a blip in history.  He will lie in state in the Arizona Capitol building and in the United States Capitol Rotunda, an honor bestowed on fewer than three dozen people.  He will then be buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.  There are also proposals to rename the Senate Office Building after him, with the recommendations coming from leading Democrats.

Rest in peace, maverick.  You've earned the rest.


President Trump released the following statement, Monday evening, August 27, 2018:
"Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country and, in his honor, have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff until the day of his interment.

I have asked Vice President Mike Pence to offer an address at the ceremony honoring Senator McCain at the United States Capitol this Friday.

At the request of the McCain family, I have authorized military transportation of Senator McCain's remains from Arizona to Washington, D.C., military pallbearers and band support, and a horse and caisson transport during the service at the United States Naval Academy.

Finally, I have asked General John Kelly, Secretary James Mattiss, and Ambassador John Bolton to represent my Administration at this services."

A farewell statement from John McCain was likewise released:
"...We have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.  We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.  We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.  We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals.  We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates.

But, we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.  If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we'll get through these challenging times.  We will come through them stronger than before.  We always do. ..."

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