[ by Charles Cameron — heartbreaking, what this man endured and left us as his legacy ]
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?
who shall McCain it now John McCain is gone?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: