Political topics usually find no place here, but today is an exception. It has been more than 50 years since the death of a public figure has affected me as profoundly as the news last night of the passing of Senator John McCain. The fact that this loss, unlike the one we experienced in November 1963, was not unexpected does little to lessen its impact.

It occurred to me last night, while watching the news coverage, that John McCain was the one unwavering constant throughout my life of political awareness which began in the 1960s as a Democrat. When I heard of McCain’s capture and his subsequent story, I regarded him as a hero because his courage and honor transcended the tawdry politics of war. When in later decades my disillusionment with party partisanship moved me to become an Independent, I continued to regard McCain as an example of what a politician should be – but sadly, so rarely is. I respected him, and that’s something I can say about precious few politicians throughout the past half century.

As an unaffiliated voter I have cast ballots for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and a few write-ins when I couldn’t in good conscience choose a “lesser of two evils.” The 2008 presidential election presented a huge quandary because I intended to vote for McCain… until he announced his choice of running mate. If the Senator were a younger man or without his existing health history I might have cast that vote anyway, but not with things as they were and who his VP choice was. In his new book The Restless Wave McCain revealed that his first and preferred choice for VP had been Joe Lieberman – a senator whose political affiliations have paralleled my own and whose selection I’d have happily supported.  Could that unlikely bipartisan duo have captured the White House? Perhaps not, but it is an experiment in unity that I hope someone else will adopt two years from now. It would be a fitting tribute to the spirit of ‘country over party’ that John McCain always exemplified. He will be sorely missed and, to paraphrase Hamlet, we shall not look upon his like again.

 

…. and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Romeo & Juliet, Act III, Scene II