“Virtue is persecuted by the wicked more than it is loved by the good.”—Cervantes
ROLLING FORK— Perhaps old soldiers never die until they do.
If I had good sense I would have gone to bed last Thursday night. I was tired. I had to go to work the next morning. But the thing is, I had a hunch, what my dear ole mammy would have called my “shine,” and I have learned to trust them over the years, so I just couldn’t.
Sleep, after all, is something you can always get back, something you can always “catch up on,” but miss “a moment,” and it is forever gone.
And so it was that I and other insomniacs and political junkies watching C-Span 2 at about 12:30 a.m. Friday witnessed “a moment” in that moment, rather than on video tape for much of the next two days.
It might have been Don Quixote, charging his last windmill.
It might have been Man ‘o’ War’s last race.
It might have been John Wayne’s character in “The Shootist,” the proud old gunfighter, diagnosed with “a cancer,” preferring the nobility of a final shootout to a death bed by which to exit.
Instead, it was John McCain, a quixotic old war horse with “a cancer,” legislatively shooting down the bad guys for what felt like perhaps one last time, and maybe, just maybe saving millions of people’s healthcare, in the process.
It wasn’t John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona. It wasn’t John McCain the contrarian. It wasn’t even John McCain, the maverick of his own making.
It was John McCain, the patriot.
Absent lance or six shooter or steed, it was just a man, armed with nothing more than his character, striding once again upon the stage of history, surrounded by colleagues he had lectured on their duties as senators two days before, once again doing his by saying a single word—“no.”
He said “no” to the most absurd, ridiculously bad, pregnant with mischief legislation presented in the United States Senate in many a year—one which some of his friends said they would only vote for with an assurance from the Speaker of the House (given, but not wholly trusted) that it would die in that other chamber and that it would never become law.
Unless or until it did.
He said “no” to his party that is no longer recognizable as such. He said “no” to something terribly, terribly wrong, and not for the first time, he is today reviled for it. He is being excoriated for it by herds of people who are, at the same time both sheep and wolves, and who combined, would not be his equal.
Some of them I know. Some of them I have called friends. At least one of them is halfway kin to me.
Their words, all foolish, many vile and some just symptomatic of the ignorance that dominates the day, filled my email in-box and social media timeline:
“I hope the old (expletive too filthy even for folks named Scaramucci) goes ahead and dies a horrible death,” one of them said.
To which a man I thought I knew but didn’t replied, “I hate that SOB.”
“I hope he goes to hell,” proclaimed a woman who in so doing eliminated anyone’s mistaking her for a lady.
“He’s not a real Republican,” chimed in another who would not recognize a real one were any around to be seen, “he’s just a damn liberal snowflake.”
John McCain a liberal? That’s funny.
John McCain a “snowflake?” That’s blasphemous.
Tell you what, pal: When your airplane is shot down in combat, when both your arms and legs are broken, when you survive seven years in a POW camp being tortured and refuse the offer to leave earlier than those suffering with you, then and only then do you have the right to call someone who has a “snowflake.”
Having already defeated melanoma, John McCain now has a particularly lethal form of brain cancer for which the prognosis is not good. He found that out just under two weeks ago but he left his hospital and flew back to Washington, to the Senate he loves, to once again serve the country he loves—for what may well be the last time.
Because that’s what patriots do. And like Cervantes’ mythical Man of La Mancha, “the world will be better for this.”