The Meaning of McCain’s Last Words
With his passing, the late Senator John McCain left these final words through an open letter to the nation. In a final act as a maverick, he spoke across partisan divides and gave us assurances that America would make it through the troubled times it currently sees. He stressed our common, human traits that we share as a citizenry, noting that we are more alike than we are different.
In particular, he wrote:
We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal 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.
I found this passage to be especially potent. In a few lines of prose, he tears apart the mindsets of vicious racism, prejudice, and ill will that is found on the far-right, as well as (to some degrees) on the far-left. Moreover, he teaches us that we need not be ashamed of our country, that America is a force for good, and that we gradually get closer to a just society by staying true to ourselves and our virtues. As black as the current picture may seem, the pendulum always swings harder toward progress.
I had mixed feelings about McCain. I often thought that he was not quite the maverick he made himself out to be. The way he voted on several issues seemed difficult to square up with a person who took part in an honest reading of the facts. In spite of that, there was an undeniable humanity in his words and actions. With his death, I am left to conclude that perhaps I could never understand his motives as well as I would hope. He may not have always been a maverick, but I am willing to admit that he was a mystery, for all that is gold does not glitter.
So I accept him in humble ignorance, as well as the wisdoms he imparts. If there is one lesson that we can take from McCain in his words (and probably even in the choices he made in his life), it is that we all must strive to be mavericks. The doctrine of “country over party” must spread and overtake the hearts and minds of every American. So long as I write and work for my political causes, on Medium and in North Carolina, I shall try to be a McCain, of my party, of my community, and of my generation. I shall advocate causes that are unpopular but right and accept the risks of such actions, just as this Arizonan of esteem did.
I have learned many lessons from Senator McCain, and I thank him dearly for those.
Sit vis tecum.