For Whom the Bell Tolls

Sometimes Politics has to stand aside. That happened this afternoon when we watched “John McCain For Whom The Bell Tolls” an HBO Documentary.

The politics don’t matter, they really don’t. The leadership does and the service does. At the end of the day, and that is where McCain is now, that is what counts. Character does count.

McCain admits over and over again that he made mistakes, that he is human, that he made errors in judgement; etc etc. He was no saint, but he admitted it.

And he is dying of the same disease that took Ted Kennedy.

I remember the day after Kennedy died. I was on the putting green at Gold Hills and one of my right wing Republican Friends said cruelly about Kennedy, “They shot the wrong Kennedy many years ago”.

Now there were two Kennedys who were shot dead, but the only one who wasn’t shot was Senator Ted Kennedy.

I told the perpetrator of hate what I thought of him and his lack of humanity and reminded him that my wife had died of cancer and left. I didn’t play golf that day.

I did, in my friend’s defense, receive a profuse apology for his stupid statement. I would like to think he grew a little that day.

But partisan politics is why the statement was made. And sometimes politics clouds our humanity and our feelings for one another. And politics is an means to the true end: the public interest.

Democracies are messy and clumsy in getting to the public interest. Often they can be so cumbersome they never get there. But the alternative, authoritarian fascism is so harmful to the public interest that it simply cannot be allowed.

We are in a very dark place right now. President Trump has the knack of turning people against one another like no other politician save McCarthy in the 1950s. And McCarthy did not have access to immediate media, social media and the rest.

And the country is groaning in agony of division and hate. And the public interest is harder and harder to define.

And McCain is dying in Arizona with the same cancer that killed Ted Kennedy.

And Ted Kennedy made mistakes; he was involved in a fatal car accident that killed a woman and led to the basic end of his political career. And we all watched in sorrow as two brothers before him were buried in Arlington, victims of assassination.

I read the review of the HBO documentary about John McCain. Several reviewers were unkind to the man even now in a political way. It is as if making more political points even now on a man who is definitely down, who was an American hero by any stretch of the imagination, somehow what, makes you what, superior?

It makes you a spiteful ignorant fool.

Look, the WE is more important than the ME. McCain got that. He fought in an unpopular war, but for which he convinced the government later in life, to recognize Vietnam as a country in spite of the politics. He worked to recognize a country that had tortured him for years.

He ran for President twice and supported yet another unpopular war, but came to make comments about the fact that it was unwarranted. He admitted that he was human and made mistakes.

And he lost to the first African American elected President. He famously did not condemn the Confederate Flag, doing what he admitted later was the wrong thing, he did the politically expedient thing; and it didn’t work. But he apologized for it. He apologized! And he also famously took the mike from deluded woman who claimed Obama was an “Arab” and commented that he was a good man and he would not stoop to that level to get elected; and he didn’t.

Trump stooped to that level with his Birther crap.

He was a hard right conservative in many things. But that right was not racial, it was political and economic. He truly believed in personal liberty unfettered by government.

That of course in my political view is wrong, because again the WE is more important than the WE. I sometimes think John knows that in his bones as well.

And McCain agreed with me there, valuing friendship and bipartisan effort as “the regular order”. The regular order is a government that works for the public good.

Finally, my memory of this American Hero will always be his walking to the podium to cast the deciding vote to destroy the law that was his biggest political rival’s accomplishment. He could have voted yes and wiped out Obama’s Health Care Bill, the ACA….but he didn’t.

He put his hand in the air and gave the thumbs down sign. And that vote saved millions of people’s health care. And he voted that way not because he agrees with government sponsored health care; he doesn’t. He voted that way because the public interest was at odds with the proposal, he knew it, and the power in the Senate had gone around the regular order to get something that would hurt a lot of people.

And all the politics be damned. For McCain the country counted first.

And I will stand and salute the man and his honor with that one McCain like demonstration, that one thumbs down movement was his high point. And he voted that way because it was not in the “regular order”.

That, my fellow citizens in the We not the Me; the regular order is working together for the common good.

And Senator McCain did that more than the other, much more in his life for Whom the Bells Toll.

Stanford grad, BA Political Science, MA from Sac State in Government. 36 years in public education as teacher, coach, athletic director, and administrator.