It’s been all John McCain all week, and deservedly so. I’ve tried so many times this past week to write something about him, but everything seems redundant and/or superfluous I’m just going to say it unfiltered — I admired John McCain.
I didn’t agree with every position he held throughout his political career, but I respected him and liked him and admired him. He was a romantic about America, and much to the chagrin of some of my friends, I am too. Our country has faults — many of them — and yet I love America enough to criticize America. There is something profoundly good about this nation, and we are important, not just to one another as citizens, but we’re important to the world. I love America for what it can be, should be, and needs to be. I think this is how John McCain saw America, too.
I want to say something else . . . I think there’s a softness of among men and women in our country today and that worries me . . . it worries me because there is a time and place for hard work and sacrifice and achieving higher goals other than personal wealth or individual pleasure. John McCain was a man. He suffered as a man. He made mistakes as a man. He survived and showed courage as a man. He loved. He was defeated. He stood up again. To me this is the measure of a man (and a woman) — to fall, to learn, and to stand up again.
McCain was a person of faith. Irascible to be sure. Often irreverent. Yet there was a fundamental belief in God and the dignity of all people. It’s one reason why he was against the use of torture. He wasn’t a politician who “played” religious. It was real to him. When I think of him as a statesman, a word we don’t often use these days, especially when compared to others serving in Congress and the White House, I am flummoxed over how far we have fallen. I remain fundamentally hopeful about our nation, but when it comes to the depth of intellectual and spiritual life inside many of our leaders these days . . . well . . . we’ve fallen so far.
I am loving reading Jon Meacham’s new book The Soul of America. I recommend it to you with great enthusiasm. But the subtitle of the book is this — “The Battle for our Better Angels.” And that’s it. That’s why I am so grateful for John McCain. In his military life, his family life, his political life, and even his life as he faced death in recent months, John McCain showed us that living out of our better angels is possible. I am taking a breath today because, whether in church or city or nation or world, we need, we need, we need to follow the lead of our better angels. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It simply means that we try to care about the right things.
Our nation mourns this weeks. More importantly, however, our nation remembers and I hope, resolves, to follow the better angels within us all.