Like many, I was deeply saddened by the passing of Senator John McCain this past weekend. As is apparent by the great outpouring of grief and reverence from across the country, the man was an inspiration to many due to many of his heroic deeds and storied life. I will not make a list of them here for they are being espoused by many others who know his story much better than I, but I recommend reading up on his biography for anyone who hasn’t.
I have and had deep respect for him, because of his flaws.
I know that in common parlance, one is expected to say “despite his flaws”. However, to me, John McCain should perhaps most be remembered for the fact that he was a deeply flawed human being, as we all are. However, he was able to demonstrate a recognition of his past mistakes, and often demonstrated not only growth but an effort to improve upon his past errors. This behavior is something I personally feel more in Washington—honestly, more across the country-should really exhibit more often.
It has always bothered me that we give little room for politicians to admit that they were wrong about how they viewed something or behaved in the past. Admitting error is so taboo for fear of electoral repercussion. But who among us is not wrong on a regular basis? I know I am. Who among us comes at every issue with complete and utter knowledge of its background and possible results? If only, but alas this is not the case.
McCain displayed this growth in his efforts to reform campaign finance after the Keating Five scandal. Another such example is demonstrated by his recognition that he was wrong about the Iraq War, which he ardently supported initially. His ability to admit a mistake is clear in this quote from his most recent memoir, where he states the war in Iraq “can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it”.
I truly wish more of us could learn to show this humility, and learn to do something about it. That is what I will be taking most to heart from this passing. Imperfection is acceptable, for it is human. With the bookends of birth and death that mark every life, the chapters are littered with errata, both big and small. It is how we deal with those mistakes that makes the difference.
As a side note, I would also like to point out the McCain could be considered a Founding Father of this blog. While I was growing up, my own father was an ardent supporter of John McCain, even when he wasn’t the most popular candidate for his party. He would go so far as to even write him in as a candidate, for he truly believed in the values McCain stood for. Witnessing this ability to support a maverick and contrarian, was inspiring for my own political formation, even if I personally disagree with many of the stances McCain took or decisions he made. The ability to argue over such matters in a reasonable, albeit passionate fashion, was a launching pad for the idea to formulate a place where others could debate in a similar format.
So thank you John McCain for yet another important gift you brought to my life. You are a true hero and an inspiration. May you rest in peace.
*I would also love to hear anyone else's opinions on what John McCain meant to them. In my opinion, we should honor his legacy and this is done most effectively by sharing what he meant to each of us personally.