(I wrote this blog this morning and have just read that the White House has decided to lower the flag again to half-mast in John McCain’s honor. However, I have decided to post this piece anyway because many of the basic sentiments remain the same, though I am happy Trump has reversed his decision on this matter.)
As a rule, I try not to be political on my blog. While I am a proud Democrat who chooses to live in “LaLa Land” on the “left coast” as my Republican Texas friends love to point out, the truth is that I believe separating ourselves into “us and them” is counterproductive to a united America. My life experience tells me that we Americans have more that unites us than divides us, and that the majority of people in the United States hold dear the basic tenets of our country’s Bill of Rights with its message of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. However, today, when I see the flag at the White House flying at full versus half-mast only two days after the death of Senator John McCain, an American war hero and long-standing statesman, I am appalled. While tradition calls for the flag to fly at half-mast until the burial, it is the prerogative of the president to raise it again after two days. Donald Trump’s decision to go against tradition screams of petty personal politics and a clear message to all that says, “If you’re not with me, you will pay.”
It is no secret that Donald Trump and John McCain had a long history of acrimony between them. According to ABC News, Trump insulted McCain’s distinction as a war hero as early as 1999, then repeated his remarks in 2015 when he said, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump said this despite the fact that McCain was forced to eject from his bomber when fighting in Vietnam and then was jailed and tortured for five years in a prison camp, where he refused to be released until every person who came in before him was released first. To me, McCain’s courage and selflessness under such difficult circumstances qualify him as a genuine American hero all on its own. That doesn’t even take into account his 30 + years of service to our country in the U.S. Congress.
Granted, McCain was an ardent critic of Donald Trump. As a fellow Republican, he spoke out loud and clear on numerous occasions against Trump’s personal behavior and political policies and was the last Republican vote needed to deal a death blow to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. That did not make him a friend of Donald Trump. McCain also made it clear that he didn’t want Trump to attend his funeral, which spoke of his negative feelings towards Trump, the person. However, the White House is a symbol of our nation as a whole and as such needs to honor those who have served our country with distinction, regardless of personal and party differences. That flag at full mast epitomizes the very behavior that McCain found so contemptible. The fact that both Obama and George W. Bush are going to speak at McCain’s funeral demonstrates his bi-partisan value to our country and to the world.
In addition, Trump’s decision to raise the flag again after only two days communicates that opposition to his political agenda will result in retribution. Gone is the recognition of a person’s overall contribution to American society, replaced by the pointed message that cries out a more egocentric message, “If you are not with me, then you are against me.” This flies in the face of a democratic government where opposition is part of the process and compromise is the goal.
I have made the decision to follow John McCain’s belief that, “Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you.” My job is to be true to my convictions and to trust that our shared humanity will help us all make this a better country and a better world.
I am proud of John McCain’s contributions to our country. May light perpetual shine upon him.