God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scars and Heroism

John McCain served his country and as a result experienced deep and lasting pain. Respect for his valor should not be denied him. As a Nation we owe him admiration and appreciation. He, along with other prisoners, survived; others didn’t.

In the years since then he has gone on with his life, sometimes in admirable ways and other times in not so admirable ways. Both the good and the bad have been chronicled.

However-- if I were a political columnist I am sure I would not subject myself to the vilification for saying this--I am not impressed with McCain’s subtle and not so subtle references to the ordeal he experienced as a POW. The oft repeated phrase …”and I have the scars to prove it” accompanied by his trade mark self-congratulatory smile, irritate me.

I want to yell at him “You can’t keep trading on that. Yes, you survived something terrible that many of us wouldn’t survive, but it wasn’t a heroic act." ...Let me clarify that I believe there is a difference between "hero" and "heroic act."

An heroic act is the deliberate action of aiding someone else while knowingly putting yourself in harm’s way. It is the fireman who enters a burning building; it is the soldier who falls on a grenade to ransom his comrades; it is the mother who falls under the wheel as she pushes her child to safety. It is a deliberate, although maybe reflexive, action. It is not an after the fact behavior.

I do believe that all of our nation's men and women in the armed forces are heroes in the sense that they serve to protect us. The most unrecognized heroes are the veterans who have no legs, no arms, who suffer from PTS, the ones who are never able to lead whole lives and who are ignored or occasionally receive generic recognition by people such as McCain who give tribute in speeches. These are people who are not welcomed back as heroes but are quietly shuffled to anonymity.

Barry Goldwater was different—not that I agree with him or would have voted for him—but he cared and was proactive in the lives of men and women at war. I remember when my in-laws one night answered the phone to find their son on the line, patched through by ham radio operator, Barry Goldwater from Arizona. Goldwater did this for thousands of homes during Vietnam. He did this quietly without praise or acknowledgement. This is a quiet heroism—a political figure doing good because he cared, not so that he could make points with anyone.

A hero does not speak of heroism--unless it belongs to someone else.

So, John, I remember when you walked down the steps of that plane and came home. I remember the celebration and the awe of the Nation. But....that does not qualify you to be president of our country and should not have a place in what is to be evaluated as we select our next leader.

Your renowned temper, your erratic behaviors, your exchange of principle for ambition, your foisting on this country someone who is grossly unqualified to lead are not the actions of a hero. They are a mirror on desperation. Your scars do not compensate for wisdom and judgment no matter how often you tell us you have them.

My fervent prayer is that racism and scare tactics do not defeat the man who can lead this country to new heights and hope.


Annie said...

Wonderful post.

I blogged yesterday about some of the scare tactics that are going on here in NC - very troubling. I just hope that it doesn't escalate over the next two weeks.

Jane said...

Thanks, Annie. I just read your post--hadn't got to it yet. The events there in NC are very frightening.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am disappointed in your blog today. My husband is in the military and is gone for a year from our family.(one of many times to include several wars) I believe all of our service men are heroes. They have given up their lives to our country. Told where and when to go NEVER asked. I view John Mcain as a hero not only for his POW ordeal but for the mere fact that he fought for our country in a time of turmoil. A time when being a soldier was seen as being anything but patriotic. I think he has endured the right to bank on this ordeal for the rest of his life. He suffered the absence of his family, endured torture upon torture for no other reason than being a United States Soldier. I may not care for some of his behaviors,temper etc..but I KNOW he deserves to display the sacrifice he made for our country.
We would not have the country we have today if not for men such as he...men who see beyond their selves and embrace the true meaning of democracy and the right to be free. Lets not forget the sacrifices that the families of these men endure for the good of all Americans as well. If ever someone were to dimish what my self and most important what my husband has done for this country...I would be deeply offended. Our servicemen and families have very little appreciation for what we endure. Gone are the days of military discounts, military fares, or any other recognitions for serving this country. Instead we are worried about military and defense cuts, extremely low manning, constant deployments, instability, poor health benfits, and base closures...yet we are engaging in more and more conflicts and policing through out the world.
John Mcain deserves the title hero and he is worthy of wearing it proudly. This also qualifies him as a strong leader as only a strong man can recover from what he went through. That is a great stepping stone for his presidential bid and though does not automatically make him worthy of president...it certainly gets him in the door.

Chiocciola said...

Excellent post Jane. I used to like McCain, but this constant replay of "I was a POW" does not make a good case for his candidacy.

Jane said...

Dear C
I do not disagree at all with you in terms of the heroism of any and all of our service men and women. We all owe them much because when they were and are asked to do something, they do it. If our country makes mistakes, the fault does not lie with those who serve--at all, ever. I have been more than angry and concerned over the years when anti-war groups have obscenely maligned and mistreated returning service people.

My point with McCain is that I do not believe that his experience qualifies him to lead this country. I take issue with his referring to it as proof that he is capable. I think it is a not germane to the issue. If you reread the entry, you see that I begin by validating what he did. I do not mean to denigrate that in any way.

I have modified part of the post to better clarify my thoughts. Thank you for your comments which prompted me to do this.

I am sure that I know you because you speak as if that is so--but, are you comfortable with identifying yourself more?

Terry (teaberry) said...

Jane, I too have a lot of difficulty with the POW/qualified leader connection. You become a prisoner of war through bad circumstance. How you survive such an ordeal very few of us can probably hardly imagine. It is something that thankfully few Americans will ever know.

But what are the qualities that we look for in a leader? Wisdom, compassion, vision, honesty, integrity, to name a few. It just feels like when McCain says he will fight for me, this is a catch-all phrase. Of course fighting for our country is valiant, and survivng POW camp takes inner strength and fortitude. But evoking that experience all the time reeks of trying to cash in on political capital. It feels overspent and overdrawn.

If I were an ex- POW, I'm not sure how I would be affected by this. But as an ordinary citizen, I am feeling a disconnect between a POW and the qualifications for a presidency.

Thanks again for a thought-provoking article.