Friday, August 31, 2018
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Bonn, Germany

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived (George S. Patton)

Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity (William Shakespeare)

bout a year ago, when Senator John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer, I thought he would have made it. Even though his flesh was weak due to the physical disabilities he suffered during the Vietnam War, his spirit was big and strong. Glioblastoma or brain cancer, just like all different types of cancer, is very dangerous; it's, in most cases, a terminal illness, as only a few people have survived it; and it makes no class discrimination. Although same cancer took Sen. Ted Kennedy (another good senator), former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, and so many others, I was hoping against all hope that John McCain's undaunting spirit, that has gone through many stormy kinds of weather and adversities, would have pulled him through this time around also. Nonetheless, the senator gave the illness a good run for its money, but still, death had the upper hand.

What just happened is that while the earth grieves for losing a favorite son, the celestial is rejoicing for receiving a great soul. A shining star has joined the firmament. Using the words of William Penn (1644-1718), John McCain's death is no more than a turning of him over from time to eternity.

Our time here on earth is short, but what remains thereafter is our deed. That makes it imperative that we live a life worthy of God (emulation). The Bible (1 Thessalonians 2:12) says: "Encouraging, comforting and urging you to walk/live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory." It's true that the brave may not live forever, but their legacy will. Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) touched on this when he wrote that "The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example." Minot Judson Savage (1841-1918) also rightly noted that "The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men."

John McCain failed in his bid to become the President of the United States as that would have capped his heroic services to his fatherland; but, be that as it may, he did more than some of those who have occupied or is occupying that seat; he was a hero because he gave his all for his fatherland, and that's more important than using tricks to win the presidency. Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) told us that "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself", and that was exactly what John McCain did, and for that America remembers. Borrowing words from Daniel Webster (1782-1852) "even though few or no sculptured marble may rise to McCain's memory, nor engraved stone bear record of his deeds, yet will his remembrance be as lasting as the land he honored."

When McCain broke the news of his illness about a year ago, I wrote an article then wishing the senator well. Here's an excerpt:

"I didn't support McCain's presidential bid in 2008, because I saw a better candidate in Obama then, but, McCain has proved to be a man of integrity and honor; no wonder he went through hell in Vietnam and came out to have a forgiving spirit for even his captors and tormentors.

As you will also read from others, Senator McCain was a son and grandson of Navy Admirals, and he, himself, as a Navy aviator, was shot down and taken hostage during the Vietnam War, and he spent five years as a prisoner of war. He was tortured then beyond comprehension, and the scars of that period are still with him. I think that Bernard Williams (1929-2003) had people like McCain in mind when he wrote that "Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit".

Even though president Trump and Senator McCain are within the same age bracket, they "served" America differently in the 1960s. While McCain was defending his fatherland and was sweating it out in Vietnam; Trump was only groping, frolicking, caressing and bedding women as his own national assignment. If life is fair, people like McCain, who sacrificed a lot for America, should have been president, and not goners like Trump.

As I said before; Senator John McCain was one of the few upright GOP senators, when there's drought of such in Washington D.C. He was a consensus builder and a political maverick - a lone dissenter - who was willing to take an independent stand apart from his Party or associates (willingness to disagree with his party on certain issues).

Not minding his party affiliation, he criticized Trump for his incompetence and demeanor as a president. He was one of the three Republican senators who joined the Democrats in the Senate to vote against a GOP's health bill that would have repealed and replaced Obamacare. About that vote, the Guardian noted that "the hour was late. The vote was tied. America's healthcare system hung in the balance, when McCain, rebuffing an 11th-hour appeal from the president, turned his thumb down, killing his own party's years-long effort to repeal Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act".

Even though he was a Republican, McCain was always ready to seek the support of or to join the Democrats in getting any bill, that satisfied his conscience, passed. Such effort resulted in the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002; and according to Wikipedia, McCain belonged to the bipartisan "Gang of 14" which played a key role in alleviating a crisis over judicial nominations. According to Geoffrey Kabaservice, the senator held some deeply conservative views, but his principles and belief in bipartisanship made him unique.

There will always be few John McCains: Two decades later after the Vietnamese imprisoned and tortured John McCain, he helped lead bipartisan U.S. efforts to build reconciliation and normal relations with Vietnam (U.S. Institute of Peace). And in 1995, America restored full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Think of the forgiving spirit John McCain had.

This was also a man who refused early release offer from his captors, the Vietnamese, saying that he will only leave when all the American soldiers, who were captured before him, must have been released. Because Senator McCain's father, John S. McCain, Jr., was a submarine officer, an Admiral and the commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific during much of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese wanted to release his captured son, but Senator McCain, then a sailor, refused the offer of his own early freedom for the sake of his fellow Americans also in captivity.

According to the Guardian, this was what Senator McCain told the Arizona Republican in 2007:

"I knew that they wouldn't have offered it to me if I hadn't been the son of an admiral. I just didn't think it was the honorable thing to do."

During his presidential campaign stop in Minnesota in 2008, McCain snatched the microphone and admonished one of his supporters who was disparaging his opponent, Barack Obama. The Guardian wrote how McCain defended Obama: "In the waning days of the bruising 2008 presidential campaign, a supporter at a town hall in Minnesota told McCain she feared an Obama presidency because she heard the Democrat was an "Arab". McCain reached for her microphone, his head shaking in disagreement. "No ma'am, no ma'am," McCain said as the conservative crowd booed the Republican nominee. "He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about. He's not [an Arab]."

On 4 November 2008, the vanquished Republican presidential nominee graciously conceded the election to Barack Obama in front of thousands of supporters in Phoenix. In his speech, McCain congratulated Obama on his victory and called on the country to rally behind their newly elected leader. But he went further - acknowledging the historical importance of Obama's election in a nation built on slavery and riven by racial divisions. His words then:

"This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight. I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound. A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T Washington to visit - to dine at the White House - was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country."

John McCain was the only American senator who said what he liked, when, how and to whom without any fear. America will never be the same again without McCain! Geoffrey Kabaservice, the director of political studies at the Niskanen Center in Washington, DC, wrote: "America will miss McCain. There is no one like him left in Congress. But his memory may serve as an inspiration for members of both parties who seek a way out of the country's present political morass".

John McCain enriched America, and encouraged so many of us, all over the world, with his life. Really, the world has lost a rare gem.

Sleep well, Senator John McCain. May your great soul rest in peace!