John McCain’s Guide on How to Stand Up to Bullies
On Monday, October 16, 2017, John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, received the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia. During the ceremony, he spoke of a key issue that plagues America today.
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
To understand why this is so important coming from this man in particular, a quick romp fifty years back is in order.
The year is 1967. The place is the Gulf of Tonkin, just off the coast of Vietnam, and the Vietnam War is in full force. The USS Forrestal is set on fire due to an electrical issue, and the resulting explosion killed 134 sailors and injured 161. Lieutenant Commander John McCain, one among few survivors, went back into the fray to save several other injured men. McCain was flying his 23rd bombing mission mere months later when he was shot down with a missile. He fractured both arms and a leg, nearly drowned, and finally was dragged out of the water and captured by North Vietnam soldiers on October 26th, 1967. McCain was beaten and interrogated for an extended period of time, then he only received a short stay in a hospital before being returned to his prison. In only a few months time, he lost fifty pounds and his hair turned white from the intense stress and pain. In the middle of 1968, since his father was the commander of US troops in the Vietnam theater, McCain was offered early release. However, he refused, stating he would only leave if every other man left before him. This lead to a period of intense torture, pain from dysentery, and pressure to produce anti-US propaganda. McCain only produced one feature at a particularly low point in his torture, and pledged to never do such a thing again. After five and a half long years of imprisonment, John McCain was finally released on March 14th, 1973. One of his lifetime scars is the fact that he can’t lift his arms above his head. So, if anyone is qualified to talk about patriotism, it’s this man.
This is also why Trump’s statements about McCain’s status as a war hero are also so unbelievable. At the RNC, Trump said, “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, let me tell you.” This is startling, just because John McCain is such a respected figure, regardless of his views. He has several times listened to the opposite side of his argument and changed his mind about divisive issues, most notably LGBT rights in the military. He is one of the few true politicians left, and to hear such slander toward him for little to no reason is so shocking. Yet he stood strong and dignified during Monday’s speech, discussing the dangers of blind patriotism and understanding what the stars and stripes really represent. Solve problems instead of finding them. Stand up with dignity, even when tempted to stand down. Take it from a warrior who doesn’t brag, nor does he complain. He fights for his beliefs. And THAT is the true spirit of America. Not some song or flag. True, irrepressible spirit.