The Unknown Soldier took a knee, as the white house raised a flag flown at half-staff. President Trump doesn’t consider John McCain a hero. I happen to agree.
Soldiers represent murder. We give them permission to kill on behalf of a flag. Sometimes it’s necessary, as was the case when the Confederacy rose up and decided they rather kill their sons than give up on slavery. There comes a time when you’re done negotiating, when you recognize you cannot crawl inside of crazy. The south had gone bonkers and so President Lincoln had no choice but declare war. Make no mistake, the Civil War was about slavery and nothing else. Don’t let anyone pull you into the nonsense about “State’s Rights,” which is little more than coded language for fetch me my lemonade, boy.
John McCain was a soldier. He wasn’t a hero. John McCain was an admiral’s son. He was famous. You cannot be the son of someone at the top of the food chain, you cannot be famous and earn the distinction of hero, sorry John.
The black woman sitting on the bus behind Rosa Parks who no one remembers, who went to jail, who spent the rest of her life grappling with the stigma of a felony conviction on her job application, she’s a hero. The black children, the hundreds of black children, the thousands of black children, the hundreds of thousands of black children whose faces ended up even more brutalized than Emmett Till but did not get an open casket which shook the soul of a nation are heroes. The forgotten women standing to the left and right of Susan B. Anthony who were kicked in the streets for demanding the vote are heroes.
Heroes are forgotten. Celebrities are used to distract us from noticing what really matters. But having said that, I think flying the flag at half-staff was the right thing to do and when President Trump raised the flag too soon, deliberately too soon, to make a point, the only point he made was this: Na-Nee Na-Nee Boo-Boo, I don’t like John McCain.
I appreciate the tantrum since emotion gets a bad rap but it begs the question: when is this president going to grow the fuck up? It’s exhausting!
After the Civil War, President Lincoln coined a phrase in his 2nd inaugural address which is famous, “With malice toward none.” This is a very difficult place to get to and I think you can only get there after waging a brutal war and coming out on the winning side only to realize the sacrifice may have been worthy of the cause, but why can’t we evolve beyond the ballot or the bullet?
Vindictiveness plays a part. There is energy in hatred. There is passion in anger. There is fuel in rivalry. Fear is a weapon used to twist and distort the uncertainty of life itself until “otherness” rises out of your consciousness to a place in your heart where forming a fist to punch a protester in the face seems righteous.
Speaking of black eyes…
John McCain lost the presidency to Barack Obama, a white soldier lost the seat of ultimate power to a black community organizer. Take that in. The son of an admiral lost to a fatherless child. It must have been infuriating. And yet, I would argue John McCain’s concession speech is up there with Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. It’s a call to our better angels, to fly the flag at half-staff until the moment sinks in and we’re able to wrestle with a belief we held true but must relinquish if we’re to move in the direction of kindness.
It’s an odd direction, since we’re taught to worship the euphoria of winning but never taught to recognize the grace of losing despite a genuine affection for the fight. John McCain wasn’t a hero. He was a fighter.
So am I. So are you.
Next time you go to a protest, next time you march, next time you pick up your kids at an elementary school, next time you’re kissing at a gay dance club, next time you’re picking out a melon at the farmer’s market, look to your right, look to your left, those are the heroes.
And we’ll never know their names.