Many people have a “defining moment” and John McCain’s was when he refused an early repatriation offer while confined as a prisoner during the Vietnam war.
He was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for seven years, enduring torture and deprivation.
That refusal, when most would have given in, showed an uncommon commitment to a sense of duty even when the going was fiercely tough for him.
It required him to overcome the ravages of both physical and mental anguish.
In 2015, then candidate Donald Trump belittled and ridiculed McCain, when, referring to his time as a POW, Trump said he “preferred people who weren’t captured.”
This was an early indication that Trump would gleefully trample and destroy the norms and ideals of American life.
That trampling has a name, “MAGA” or make America great again, which is irony of the highest order.
In the pre-Trump age, military service, especially including combat and certainly those who became a prisoner, was an absolute indicator that you would be accorded the respect, veneration and honor you deserve.
Not any more.
MAGA types routinely attacked McCain, spreading false and vicious rumors about his war-time bravery.
Oddly, they have done it in service to Trump, a “man” who evaded service in the war with a series of cowardly deferments for bone spurs.
The MAGAs wish to convince us that they are the only true Americans, standing four-square to protect our precious ideals from the scourges of immigration and liberal thought.
John McCain embodied many of the most priceless human values so attacking him unmasks the attackers as hypocrites or worse.
They feared McCain because his brand of American conservatism included a respect for others, including his opponents, because he understood that such values as dignity and truth transcend naked power and greed.
Speaking of irony, it is apparently true that McCain requested that Trump not be a part of his final rites and that instead, former presidents Bush and Obama speak.
It’s fitting (and just) that he make his final political act one of bipartisanship, reaching out to men on either side of the aisle whom he could both be at odds with and also respect.
In doing so, McCain reminds us of all the big lessons he knew and lived by, lessons Donald Trump could not care less about.