Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Idealism, John McCain, Life, Memes, News and Current Events, People, Politician, Society, Values

On Heroes and the Death of John McCain

(About a 2 minute read)

To many people John McCain, who died yesterday, was a hero best remembered for his refusal when a POW to accept the offer of his captors for his personal freedom because it meant leaving his brothers behind.

To many others, McCain was the best of a bad lot — a politician who at least somewhat rose above the norm for politicians to show some political integrity and courage. I myself will always remember him as the man who rightfully stood up for the humanity of Barack Obama, his political opponent when he was running for the presidency.

It speaks volumes about our age that McCain’s act stood out as exceptionally courageous and decent.

I do not mean to distract from McCain’s accomplishments, nor from his character, when I say that I think our tendency to make heroes of politicians speaks more to our human need for heroes than it does to their heroism.  I believe McCain deserves the recognition he will get for the things he did and the man he was.

But I note that many others also deserve recognition — and yet it seems one must pretty much be a war hero or a political leader to be recognized.  There are notable exceptions, of course.  Edison readily comes to mind, as do a few others.  But the bulk of men and women in our society who are widely recognized as heroes seems to be made up of warriors and politicians.

Maybe it’s because we kid ourselves into believing heroes are old-fashioned.  But what is old-fashioned is only the childish belief that a man or woman must be all good to be heroic. That is, to set a standard for excellence in some area of life.

If you are truly realistic enough to grasp that everyone is “flawed” in one respect or another, then you are realistic enough to grasp that there are indeed Einsteins in this world who do in fact excel at one thing or another, who push the envelop for what it means to be human — who affirm our potential as a species.

We might even ask, whether a society that denies it has any genuine heroes will inevitably be reduced to the admiration of mere fame, power, or riches.  And furthermore, whether the admiration of fame, power, or riches can ever be more than a sort of junk food substitute for the much deeper inspiration that genuine appreciation for an honest hero might bring us.

Questions?  Comments?


This post was inspired by a post on Abbie’s Tree House, which can be found here.

9 thoughts on “On Heroes and the Death of John McCain”

  1. “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

    One might ask, where is the tragedy in McCain rebuking the ignorant woman who maligned Barack Obama? The tragedy is this: that woman is representative of millions of like-minded people.

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    1. I’ve seen a lot of people on social media today carping because they feel McCain contrasted “Arab” with “decent family man” in his answer. I wish some of those people could live in a fishbowl and have their every utterance parsed for perfect political correctness. We all knew that the woman meant “terrorist” when she said Arab, and okay, a perfect answer would have sorted that out too, but the man was on a live mike at a campaign appearance and he did a damn fine job shutting her down.

      I’ll never forget Keating, or voting against the ACA in the first place before he became a saint for saving it — on procedural grounds, remember — and worst of all Sarah Palin, who was the dummkopf that made some subsequent politicians, culminating in Trump, look like plausible office-holders. I don’t know where his judgment was, and it may have been in his BVD’s — even someone with no intention to misbehave with a cute woman can get snookered by her. And if there’s a tragedy that’s it — that over and over again he had the poor judgment to get behind rotten people when he was not one.

      Nothing can dim his heroism, in the best sense of the word. I’m not sure I want more politicians exactly like him, but many would do well to study his candor, accessibility and decency.

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      1. Completely agree with you about the folks who apparently take gratuitous pride in pointing out how they themselves would doubtlessly have done things better than McCain.

        I much appreciate your balanced view and assessment of the man, Sledpress.

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  2. Those who praise McCain today were the same that denounced him in 2008. His heroic attitude as a POW is constantly referred to, yet it’s the feud with Trump that draws people in to choose a hero. That in itself is how he is now suddenly regaled as a modern day hero, not for his actions in the face of adversity but for his politics. The idea that we cannot scrutinize a politician due to their history or their politics only emboldens the idea that we are right while they are wrong. Which solves nothing, since sides are already chosen and discourse is only viewed as slander. Civil conversation in actuality is not physical, yet everything else is allowed.

    As far as heroes are concerned, I think you may be right in the assumption that heroes are needed, but when have they not been desired. Select people have always placed on a pedestal, to fit the narrative of the time, throughout history. The phenomenon of today is the as it has always been. It’s just that history is taught rather than studied or discussed with civility.

    We are not allowed to ask certain questions, therefore it becomes easier and easier to distain one another, rather than actually figure out what did in fact take place and what has not.

    Lure is popular today as it has been throughout time.

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    1. “Select people have always placed on a pedestal, to fit the narrative of the time” That strikes me as a downright brilliant insight, BC. The rest of what you say makes sense too, but that one is especially spot on. Thanks for sharing it.

      Liked by 1 person

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