Mourning a Maverick

After the death of a celebrity, from athletes to musicians and movie stars, they're instantly remembered for the better parts of their nature. Their sins and errors are quickly forgotten - even if only temporarily, and their post-mortem image in the public consciousness is flattering and uplifting.

The same isn't always true of political giants. Either they go the way of dictators and tyrants, whose ends usually come violently and given unceremonious farewells like Gaddafi or Bin Laden. Others are honored, occasionally elevated to mythical status, a civic sainthood for American heroes. History books remember these figures with kindness and generosity not reserved for normal people. For these legends, temporary amnesia is far more permanent than what is granted for other departed and famous. We forget failures and weaknesses never to discuss them again. In generations to come, text books and memorials will only highlight the good they contributed to our world.

Senator John McCain falls into this latter category, an American icon whose name will be listed among the greats like George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. This isn't to say he was a perfect man, he was fully human. Rather, any dispute or critique is now irrelevant. Instead we're left with an immeasurable legacy. A military man, war hero, POW, and a figure who passionately devoted his life to the care of veterans. A lawmaker steadfast in his convictions yet was willing to work with individuals with opposing political beliefs to achieve shared goals. He was labeled a maverick because he would go his own way even when his party went a different direction. This balance of pragmatism and idealism ruffled a few feathers - especially among extremists.

image courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio

However, his approach created allies out of enemies and forged friends from nemeses. Most people would not handle competition with the grace McCain demonstrated. Instead of walking away bitter after devastating loss, McCain took the high road and celebrated his opponent's victory. He ran for president twice, losing to George W Bush and Barack Obama. These two men will be delivering eulogies at McCain’s funeral, a testament to the bonds McCain fought to build with his colleagues and rivals.

In death, McCain has silenced his critics and won the respect of his foes. While I could list the many ways I disagreed with his political stances or the policies he supported, my petty complaints don't matter. The life he lived was admirable and even in disagreements, I see a man who exemplifies the way I wish to be seen when my time comes. Despite our differences, I never doubted that he wanted what was best for his family, his state, and his nation. He was the last great American conservative and his absence will be felt for years to come. Regardless of political party or ideology, America needs more men and women like him.

Farewell Senator McCain. You lived well. May God rest your Maverick soul.

image courtesy of AP News

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