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Liturgically speaking, the Missing Man formation..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — loss and grief, formalized ]
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Over North Vietnam, Naval pilot John McCain was shot down out of his intended flight path in his youth, to suffer years of captivity and torture before his release, and after a long life of service in the House and Senate, as his body was interred in the Annapolis Naval Academy Cemetery, one jet from a formation of four peeled away up and rose vertically while the three remaining planes regrouped in formation, the purpose of the gesture, the aviation fuel made available for it, and the honor accorded to the four pilots being, in the words of a Naval Air Force Atlantic release

the missing man formation is a salute performed as part of flypast of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event in memory of a deceased aviator. One airplane in a four-plane formation will pull up vertical to signify the passing of the aviator’s soul to the heavens.

You’ll note that the “passing of the aviator’s soul to the heavens” is a theological, rather than a Naval, doctrine, and indeed the gesture is a deeply emotional one, made all the more powerful by the strict discipline required of the pilots involved.

Jets perform ‘missing man’ formation in tribute to John McCain

I just wanted to note, as a religious matter, and as an indication of the power of simplicity, constraint, and tradition in liturgy, the power of this last note in McCain’s funeral passage from Sedona to Annapolis.

McCaining it now McCain is gone..

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — heartbreaking, what this man endured and left us as his legacy ]
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Donald Hall with President Obama, a parable in image form

**

The questions before us are:

  • how shall we McCain it now John McCain is gone?
  • and:

  • who shall McCain it now John McCain is gone?
  • **

    How?

    I think the answer to that question can be found in McCain’s reputation as a maverick — and if I may clarify that with a few additional quotes, I’d suggest you can find the same quality deployed in Emily Rales‘ declaration of her strategy for the Rales’ Glenstone Museum:

    We always go against the grain.

    It is likewise implicitly in Jami Miscik‘s celebrated comment on CIA analysts:

    To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians, and you have to give them the opportunities to run free.

    Above all, it seems to me, it is present in that photograph of poet Donald Hall — aptly captioned:

    Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to the poet Donald Hall, who seemed to know something about the solace on the other side of grief, and how to get there.

    But I’ll come back to that.

    **

    Who:

    In politics, in the wake of John McCain, there’s an obvious churn, an uncertainty as to who next will forcible remind us of McCain, and while the question remains open, a couple of recent candidatea can be discerned for the role — one being Mitt Romney — largely, I suspect because he was willing to stand up to Trump with a devastating analogy:

    Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

    You may or may not agree with the first half of that statement, but the worthlessness of a Trump University diploma is hard to argue with. I don’t believe anyone from Trump on down has been able to come up with a satisfactory “return” to that serve, which to my mind gives game. set and match to Romney.

    and then there’s Beto O’Rourke — I’ll let him speak for himself:

    **

    I don’t know the who of it,

    Saxophonist Bill Clinton is eulogizing Aretha Franklin on my TV the day after pol Joe Biden together with oval officers Barack Obama and George W. Bush eulogized McCain — and given how riveting and solemn McCain’s lying in state and memorial service in Arizona and then his arrival in Washington and lying in state in the US Capitol had been for the last longest time, remembering the exuberance of Aretha Franklin is both a surprise and a bit of a relief:

    Both Bush and Obama’s eulogies for McCain wre worth hearing or reading in full, but here I’ve selected some choice moments.

    Bush:

    A man who seldom rested is laid to rest and his absence is tangible, like the silence after a mighty roar.

    For John and me, it was a personal journey—hard fought political history. Back in the day, he could frustrate me and I know he’d say the same thing about me, but he also made me better. In recent years we sometimes talked of that intense period like football players, remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away. In the end I got to enjoy one of life’s great gifts, the friendship of John McCain and I’ll miss it.

    He saw our country not only as a physical place or power but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations.

    Obama:

    John liked being unpredictable. Even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some pre-packaged version of what a senator should be, and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be pre-packaged either.

    But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide — and I think John came to understand — the long-standing admiration that I had for him.

    By his own account, John was a rebellious young man. In his case, that’s understandable, what faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny.

    Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when, day after day, year after year, that youthful iron was tempered into steel.

    And we never doubted the other man’s sincerity. Or the other man’s patriotism. Or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

    For more, see:

    The most poignant (and political) excerpts from Meghan McCain’s fiery eulogy for her father

    **

    And for the rest, let me just say that while it is desirable for politicians to have the moral fortitude — which corresponds directly to the maverick nature — of a John McCain, it is essential in the artist, ass the photo of poet Donald Hall at the top of this page illuminates:

    **

    It is no mistake that the poet’s countenance so vividly proclaims his fidelity to self. and if we wish to see more McClain influence in our lives, we should look to our oiets, painters, filmmakers — not the shallow but the deep, the profound among us. As the presiding bishop at the funeral noted, the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has the essential prescription for us:

    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

    I say móre: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
    Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

    That’s from the poet — the priest’s — poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

    **

    And now if you’ll permit, in John McCain’s honor and my father’s, the Navy Hymn — precious to all those whose very lives have cast them against the unfathomable waters:

    and the hymn of the higher patriotism, I vow to thee, my country:

    John McCain for whom the bell now tolls, RIP

    Sunday, August 26th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a small but necessary personal tribute, along with corroborating witnesses for the details and more ]
    .

    McCain limps home, from Hanoi to freedom:

    **

    I want to say a quick word about John McCain, may his echoes remain long among us, before culling some significant images and quotes from other sources. I came late to my knowledge of the man, but when I arrived there, the two matters that most impressed me were:

    First, that when after a couple of years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese he was offered release, he refused it and opted consciously for years more of the same unless his fellow POWs were also released, in accord with Article III of the Military Code of Conduct to “accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.” That was an act of almost unbelievable courage ..

    **

    In more detail, from elsewhere:

    The protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is Robert Jordan, a young American who left his job to fight with the Republican side, against the Nazi-supported Nationalists, in the Spanish Civil War. He never loses sight of his objective — the demolition of a bridge — despite doubts about whether the mission is necessary or even possible. He hates fascism and feels a profound sense of duty to oppose it.

    John McCain, who died Saturday in Arizona after a 14-month fight against brain cancer, always said this 1940 novel about guerrilla warfare was his favorite and that its hero was a source of inspiration throughout his life — even as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

  • Yahoo, The bell tolls for John McCain: How Hemingway’s antifascist hero shaped the man
  • The crew on the carrier Forrestal put out a fire that killed 134 men in the worst noncombat incident in American naval history. Mr. McCain was seriously injured. Credit: U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

    *

    Promoted to lieutenant commander in early 1967, Mr. McCain requested combat duty and was assigned to the carrier Forrestal, operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. Its A-4E Skyhawk warplanes were bombing North Vietnam in the campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder. He flew five missions.

    Then, on July 29, 1967, he had just strapped himself into his cockpit on a deck crowded with planes when a missile fired accidentally from another jet struck his 200-gallon exterior fuel tank, and it exploded in flames. He scrambled out, crawled onto the plane’s nose, dived onto a deck seething with burning fuel and rolled away until he cleared the flames.

    As he stood up, other aircraft and bomb loads exploded on deck. He was hit in the legs and chest by burning shrapnel. At one point, the Forrestal skipper considered abandoning ship. When the fire was finally brought under control, 134 men had been killed in the worst noncombat incident in American naval history.

  • New York Times, John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81
  • Those who escape unscathed from such close calls are marked for life.

    And then there’s so much more..

    Mr. McCain, center, after he ejected from his fighter plane in 1967 and fell into a lake. The Vietnamese imprisoned and tortured him for more than five years. Credit: Library of Congress

    *

    Mr. McCain was stripped to his skivvies, kicked and spat upon, then bayoneted in the left ankle and groin. A North Vietnamese soldier struck him with his rifle butt, breaking a shoulder. A woman tried to give him a cup of tea as a photographer snapped pictures. Carried to a truck, Mr. McCain was driven to Hoa Lo, the prison compound its American inmates had labeled the Hanoi Hilton.

  • New York Times, John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81
  • McCain’s conduct during nearly six years in a North Vietnamese prison, the infamous Hanoi Hilton, had become the stuff of legend. In 1968, less than a year after his Navy bomber was shot down, the imprisoned McCain was abruptly offered unconditional release by the North Vietnamese, perhaps because his father had just been named the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. McCain was still badly crippled from his crash and the poor medical treatment that followed, yet he adhered to the P.O.W. code of honor and refused to be repatriated ahead of American prisoners who had been in captivity longer than he. His refusal was adamant. His guard told him, “Now, McCain, it will be very bad for you.” He was tortured for his defiance, and ultimately spent more than two years in solitary confinement.

  • New Yorker, The True Nature of John McCain’s Heroism
  • Years later, as McCain reflected on this period, he said he held no ill will toward his captors. “I don’t blame them. We’re in a war,” McCain said in a separate interview with C-SPAN in 2017. “I didn’t like it, but at the same time when you are in a war and you are captured by the enemy, you can’t expect to have tea,” McCain said.

  • NPR, From A POW Prison, John McCain Emerged A ‘Maverick’
  • Honestly, the fact that he’s spent so much time in Trump’s crosshairs should arguably serve as a clue that the guy’s integrity might be above average on Capitol Hill whether you happen to agree with his positions or not.

  • Paste, HBO’s Valedictory John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls Is Not a Puff Piece
  • **

    Second, that he continued his opposition to the torture of others throughout his life ..

    Others may speak of McCain from close personal acquaintance, or with a deeper historical awareness of his life and service, but what little I can say, I can say with deep sincerity and respect:

    The man had guts — courage — nobility. Here was a man of whom the Senate and all America can and should be justifiably proud.

    My heart goes out .. on both sides of the aisle

    Saturday, July 29th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Senators Hirono, McCain — and death shall have no dominion ]
    .

    You have probably seen Sen. John McCain‘s speech, so I’ll begin with Sen. Mazie Hirono. She too, like McCain, has a severe cancer diagnosis, she too flew in to vote, she too made an impassoned speech on thr Senate floor. Here’s a clip from her speech:

    Here, from the other wise of the aisle, with similar dignity and depth, is McCain:

    **

    And death shall have no dominion

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead man naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.

    Dylan Thomas

    McCain: This question isn’t about our enemies, it’s about us

    Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Sen. McCain on waterboarding / torture ]
    .

    Having only a superficial glimpse of the depth of experience from which John McCain speaks, I find this statement to be grounded, moving, and — if it were necessary — persuasive:

    I’ve plucked what I believe to be the key insight from this video clip, and placed it as the title to this post.


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