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American hero

September 2, 2018

It’s been a rough week or so with Aretha Franklin, Neil Simon, Jeff Lowe and Sen. John McCain all passing in the span of just a few days. All but Jeff Lowe are undoubtedly known to most of you. Lowe was a climber and an impressive one at that. He died of ALS, the same thing that got my father. It’s a rough way to go. For whatever it’s worth Jeff lived large while he was among us. I hope that took some of the sting out of how he left the world.

I admired all of the above, but the person I wish to dedicate this column to is John McCain — one of the few individuals that I, personally, would deem a hero. Never have I respected so much someone with whom I disagreed as much. Sen. McCain, at least in my estimation, is a genuine American hero.

Sen. McCain was the only politician whose campaign I ever donated money to — twice, both times that he ran for president. Each time I sat down before making the donation and realized that I was giving what seemed a large sum of money to someone with whom I predominantly did not agree. And further someone who was likely to lose. But it was all good because I supported John McCain more for his character than anything else.

Call me old-fashioned but I think that good character is important. When I run across anyone who displays what I consider good character: courage, fidelity to the truth, loyalty, humility, patriotism, compassion, the ability to grow and evolve, service to others and fierce independence, I’m going to get in their corner. The world needs more people of good character and if that’s what you want to see that’s what you’ve got to support.

I am struck in this time of remembrance for Sen. McCain over the contrast between him and the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. Trump may occupy the one position that eluded Sen. McCain but he’s in no way his better. One of the many reasons that Trump seems to have difficulty showing even a modicum of respect for Sen. McCain is that John McCain is a thousand times the man, even in death, that Donald Trump will ever be.

I can imagine Trump, alone in the White House with his TV, simultaneously preening over stories about himself and fuming over the attention being “diverted” to McCain. That makes me laugh out loud. And if there is life after death I imagine that Sen. McCain is getting a kick out of it as well.

While John McCain served his country honorably in the military, to the extent of five years in captivity as a POW, Donald Trump was evading military service due to bone spurs. Trump can run his mouth all that he wants to about liking people who “weren’t captured” but McCain’s story will resonate long after Trump is just a sad footnote in history. The contrasts don’t end there, but that’s for another day. I’m not through with Trump, not by a damn sight. Just not today.

Was McCain perfect. Nope — far from it. But who is? I’ll take John McCain, warts and all, over just about any other political figure that I can think of. And that’s taking into account that I disagreed with him on just about everything. McCain, as much as anything else, embodied the concept that you could stand for something, and be vigorous in defending your point of view, but not treat with disdain or disrespect those with whom you disagree.

I will never forget what I consider his finest moment, when in the waning days of his second bid for the Presidency he respectfully told a woman at a GOP event that she was wrong in her personal criticism about his opponent, then Sen. Barack Obama. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man (and) citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not (an Arab).” He was booed by the crowd too.

Godspeed Sen. McCain. You were always there for us. Now, perhaps, some of us can find the wherewithal to stand up and be there for what you represented.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.

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