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Saturday, August 26, 2017


Thirteen months ago, five-time student deferred Donald J. Trump said of John McCain, "I prefer people who don't get captured."  It was a gratuitous, ugly, cheap remark that earned Trump universal condemnation, but of course did not cost him either the nomination or the election.  A few words of background.  John McCain was a young ne'er do well much pampered, the son of a famous admiral when he entered the Navy Air Corps.  He crashed four or five planes before earning his wings, and was then shot down over enemy territory and captured during the Viet Nam War being held a prisoner  for five years.  In the prison camp, he was tortured, as were the other men held there.  When the Viet Namese discovered the identity of McCain's father, they offered to release him as a propaganda move, and McCain refused unless all of the other men were released as well!  You can say anything you wish about the legitimacy of the war, the morality of serving in it, or McCain's long and appalling political career, but that was an act of extraordinary heroism, and he deserves all of the praise he has had from it since.  Has he dined out off it, as we say?  Used it for political advantage?  Of course.  But I don't care.  That was an act of great and totally admirable heroism and self-sacrifice.  So Trump trashed him for it.  And McCain, who was in the midst of a difficult re-election campaign, bided his time. 

Did McCain forget that insult?  Hardly.  Did time heal the wound?  Not a bit.  McCain waited until the moment when Trump's fondest dream depended on McCain's single vote, and then, in the most dramatic fashion possible, he shafted Trump.

Now Trump has pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the first voice to condemn the pardon is that of  John McCain. 

I will offer a prediction.  Every time McCain finds himself in a position dramatically, publicly shaft to Trump -- which, in light of the balance of votes in the Senate may be rather often -- he will do so.  Trump will fume, rage, storm, tweet, and McCain will just keep shafting him.

Pass the popcorn.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed this piece on McCain's Heroism:

Jerry Fresia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Fresia said...

23 times McCain flew missions in which he dropped bombs and napalm on what to me were innocent civilians and combatants heroically defending the country from horrific foreign aggression. That he was captured, tortured (and given medical treatment that saved his life), broke under torture, refused to be released early so that he wouldn't further damage his reputation in the eyes of his father (given that "confessions" were part of the early release conditions) is an American tragedy but not the story of heroism that offers a model that one should emulate, in my opinion.

If one googles McCain's war record and/or heroism, one finds a much fuller picture than the one generally presented. Here are a couple:

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

Can one be a hero in a bad or an evil cause?

I'm not sure. It isn't so clear to me one way or another.

That seems a good subject for further debate or for a separate post by Professor Wolff.

Jerry Fresia said...

s. wallerstein

I was thinking the same thing. Good question.

However, I don't think McCain qualifies regardless; seems to me that his first concern
was how he would be perceived by his father. I doubt the altruism.

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

Very few of us, if any, actually act motivated by the categorial imperative or if we do consciously, unconsciously we are probably trying to please our fathers (at times after their death) or to impress our girl friends or to show the guys who laughed at us in 8th grade gym class that we are real men.

Motives matter of course. I don't know enough about McCain to really judge his.

I do know lots of people whom both of us would categorize as heroes in a good cause: people who resisted the Pinochet dictatorship working in underground organizations at the risk of their lives and who were arrested and tortured and after being tortured and expelled from Chile, seeing many of their comrades disappeared in the same process, returned with other identities to continue struggling.

When you get to know them better, you see how complicated and human-all-too-human their motivations really were. Trying to impress fathers or peers or social pressure from the leftwing organizations that they belonged to plays a huge role in their heroism.

Which does not make them any less heroic, by the way, just human.

Jerry Fresia said...

Good points all, S. Wallerstein. I especially like your first paragraph.

And Victor Jara?

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia:

Victor Jara was taken prisoner the day of the coup in the Universidad Técnica del Estado where he was a professor. Almost everyone underestimated the ferocity of the coup: people believed that the Chilean military were "different", more civilized.

Otherwise, Victor Jara and many others might have gone into hiding when they heard that a coup was in progress. Some people even turned themselves in to the police, believing mistakenly that they'd be treated in a civilized form and were shot or executed in more brutal ways.

Victor Jara was brutally and sadistically tortured, then shot (he had 44 bullets in his body). Later on during the dictatorship, torture became a method to extract information about the resistance from captured resistance members, but in the case of Victor Jara, it was simply a question of humiliating him, inflicting pain and discharging hatred.

In his excellent book, Chile: Anatomía de un Mito, Tomás Moulian uses the murder of Victor Jara as an example of how class hatred fueled the repression against the left and made it crueler, since Victor Jara, a talented peasant lad who became an actor, playwright, song-writer and singer, summed up everything the Chilean right hated about the Allende government, namely, the "uppity lower classes".

David said...

And there it is:

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