By Victoria Gill
Elm Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. John McCain’s recent death has swarmed social media and every news outlet for more than a week. He announced on Friday, Aug. 24 that he would stop undergoing treatment for his brain cancer, and passed away shortly after. What baffles me is that I wasn’t aware of this information until I was in church Sunday morning. It disappoints me how many people are aware of his death in this community, but are not acknowledging what a great man he was.
There’s nothing secret about Washington College having a student population that leans towards liberal beliefs, but the amount of people shrugging off his death because he was a part of the Republican Party and the negative association because of the Trump administration places him in a spotlight that is not what he’s earned from his time as senator from Arizona and his time as a pilot in the Vietnam War. There is a great divide within the Republican Party in this country at the moment, and grouping every Republican into the Trump administration, including McCain, is disingenuous.
My earliest memories of McCain in the political scene was during the 2008 election as he was running against Barack Obama. My initial response to him was like any other ignorant person, especially since I was a child: because he was a part of the Republican Party, I did not like him. However, that is not how you should identify an individual – by shoving them in a group.
Growing up and becoming more socially aware, I saw that he stood by ideals which differed from those of his party and also served as models that we as citizens should embody in our day-to-day lives: bravery, thoughtfulness, compassion. While McCain, according to Esquire, was “a fairly run of the mill [politician],” not staking out a single issue, or doing so without a noticeable effect, he was always willing to compromise on issues that were the source of debate between the parties, and “he was never willing to surrender his self-respect for self-interest, or party interest” according to Forbes.
Right now in the political world, compromise, especially from the Republican Party, is seen as an expletive. McCain was willing to compromise with Democrats to get things done. These days, this is taken by the Republican Party as capitulation—something to be avoided. As citizens watching this process, it’s tempting to give up hope that change can be made, all because of stubbornness.
Let’s be honest, “often his campaign was nasty, dishonest, and irresponsible” according to The Chicago Tribune, but he never attacked anyone personally like someone we all know too well. He defended Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election when he was accused of being Muslim and from Kenya. He commended him as a fair opponent and a good man. That stood out to me as a child, as well as McCain’s backstory as a prisoner of war.
As a Navy pilot in Vietnam, McCain was shot down by a North Vietnamese missile and taken into captivity, with minimal medical attention given to multiple fractures in his legs and arm. He was subjected to numerous interrogations and beatings, and was denied medical treatment until the Vietnamese learned he was the son of an admiral. When given the chance to be returned to the U.S., since he was a POW of notable status, he chose instead to stay with his men and follow the order of release protocols.
He is a true hero for staying for five and a half years when he could have left. His constant love and dedication toward this country was extraordinarily commendable.
A week ago, McCain released to the press that he would stop undergoing treatment for brain cancer. In the time that he was receiving treatment, McCain was in the process of running for re-election against Kelli Ward. McCain passed away this past Saturday and following his death Ward tweeted out “Political correctness is like a cancer!” While this comment received backlash on Twitter, Ward had insinuated, along with another Facebook post which was later deleted, that McCain had released word of ending his treatment to tamper with the final leg of her campaign.
He was, however, a part of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of centrists who were moderately conservative. This meant that he grew with the times and his politics changed. He was able to move away from superficial political arguments and shift focus to the nation’s economic situation and national security.
His death and this Twitter “beef” should be seen as a reminder that while these individuals are put under a political spotlight that at times can be viewed through a negative lens, they too live with the everyday struggles of real people.
The goal of today’s America should be to continue McCain’s legacy of serving others, providing a safer world filled with compassion.