In death, Sen. John McCain was able to remind us of things we have clearly forgotten: that we remain one nation under God; that there is far more that brings us together than divides us; that there really is truth if we search for it; that politics should never have good people railing at one another; and that America is, always has been and always will be greater than the pettiness her sons and daughters allow to overshadow her.
For the Donald Trump supporters out there, let us be clear: this is not a diatribe against the president. And for the Trump detractors among us, this isn’t a time to whoop and holler because we are offering a condemnation of our country’s leader.
Neither is the case. In fact, we are hoping both groups will stop pointing fingers long enough to not just read the words we offer, but let them absorb, stopping long enough to be just an American.
That’s what happened at McCain’s funeral in Washington on Saturday. People from all walks of life, all political parties and all races sat elbow to elbow listening to two very different former presidents sing the praises of a man they both defeated and often stood at odds with philosophically. And they did so because it was the American thing to do; it was the right thing to do; and it was the thing McCain richly deserved for a life of public service, both on the battlefields of war and in the halls of Congress.
Over the course of both Barack Obama’s presidency and that of George W. Bush’s term in office, we disagreed with both men, pointing out on these pages how they, in different aspects of policy, varied differently from our own thoughts and feelings. We did so to give our readers, no matter their political sway, something to think about.
On Saturday, they both made us proud, showing the dignity of the highest office in the land, showing respect for someone that didn’t always agree with them and offering comfort not just to McCain’s family but to a grieving nation, one, whether we admit it or not, grieves not just for the departed senator but for a calmness we’ve somehow lost as we’ve allowed bitterness to take root.
And bitterness over what? Politics?
Are we really willing to allow our support for or disdain towards a president to divide friendships, severe family ties or stir civil unrest? Are we seriously forgetting the problems, the criticisms that every other president, Democrat and Republican, has faced during his time in office?
Or are we allowing the spin doctors who take to social media and totally biased news channels (left and right) to think for us?
If we want America to remain great, isn’t that up to us individually and collectively? Isn’t it up to us to be better than the snarling, foaming at the mouth people we’ve become when faced with opinions that differ from our own?
In eulogies Saturday, a Republican and a Democrat, offered words we should all consider:
• “… it showed a largeness of spirit, an ability to see past differences in search of common ground.”;
• “…if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work.”;
• “So much of our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”
• “John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.”;
• “If we are ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder. We are better than this. America is better than this.”
Today, we are a weary America. Whether willing to admit it or not, we are tired of the bickering, the finger pointing and the worship of politics.
We urge Republicans, Democrats, Independents and non-political Americans, alike, to heed Bush’s words and act accordingly — we are bigger than all this fighting. We are better than our social media posts suggest. And perhaps more importantly, America is better than this. It’s time we let her shine again.