As many others are, I am also mourning the death of John McCain. He was a great man who remained true to his beliefs throughout a long and eventful life. Perhaps what strikes me most is that Senator McCain not only lived during historical events such as wars, recessions, political upheavals, natural disasters, to name a few; he truly experienced them. He absorbed them, formed opinions about them, got down and dirty during them, and always tried his damndest to learn from them while encouraging others to do the same; irrelevant of their political opinion. It didn’t matter what role he was playing; politician, prisoner, father, or husband; first and foremost he was an American. And he loved it.
You don’t need to be a Private Investigator to recognize Senator McCain was an exemplary American but, in order to deem someone an American Hero I think we need to dig a little deeper. Define what it is we are talking about when we say an American Hero – especially in this era of removing statues of historical figures who were defined heroes at one time in history only to be reconsidered today.
I am the last person to believe anyone is all good; a superhero. I am more likely to peel layers back looking for the underlying flaws. I believe all people have both layers and flaws. I see examples of otherwise good people, even those considered outstanding citizens and community members, doing very bad things. Every. Single. Day.
So what defines an American Hero? I believe an American Hero is someone who, when put under historical scrutiny, lives a life dedicated to timeless American values. It is someone who remains idealistic in even the most dire circumstances. McCain’s experience as a POW and his ensuring dedication to public service clearly demonstrate an idealism of the American government and America as a whole.
An American Hero is clear in his convictions and works tirelessly toward them. He is honest and forthright and unafraid of making mistakes or apologizing for them. He believes in the good of the whole over any personal gain and is willing to work with people from all walks of life to accomplish goals.
I do not believe an American Hero must be perfect. We all make mistakes. The difference is that in this day of endless social media use mistakes are recorded and shared in a matter of moments. How we react, learn, grow, and change is what makes some who make mistakes still worthy of hero status. So while modern day public scrutiny may be greater, those we deem heroes have a better chance of still being considered an American Hero for generations to come.
Why I consider John McCain worthy of being remembered as an American Hero is, ironically, very well explained by John McCain himself in his last remarks:
“…I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.
I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life.
I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.
Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.
I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine.
And I owe it to America.
To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures.
Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
Fellow Americans’ — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American…”
A true American Hero clearly loves America, and America clearly loves him. Judging by Senator McCain’s lifelong actions and words, and the outpouring of emotions surrounding his passing, there seems to be little doubt that John McCain is a true American Hero.