Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: John McCain, a True American Hero — Just Not My Hero

After a brave 14-month battle with brain cancer, American patriot — and, yes, hero — John S. McCain III joined his ancestors Aug. 25. Arizona’s senior U.S. senator was at his ranch, surrounded by his loving family, after deciding two days earlier to end the extraordinary medical treatments that were keeping him alive.

McCain was a brave man, a naval officer. His father and grandfather before him were also proud U.S. Naval officers, admirals in fact. He lived by their honor code.

John Sidney McCain III is a true American hero. There can be no doubt about that. He answered the call to service, to family, to nation, not to vanity, and he lived his 81 years by the honor code. I salute his sincere, selfless sacrifice.

But despite his sincerity and decency, I believe history will record that he and those who stand with him, have been and remain in opposition to Divine, universal principles of Freedom, Justice and Equality for all: they favor the America First way, especially for White folks.

As a captured warrior, McCain bravely refused early release from a prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam until all his fellow prisoners were released. That is true valor.

Imagine if George Armstrong Custer and his men had been captured, rather than slaughtered at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Like Custer a century before, McCain was waging an immoral, unjust war against innocent, non-White people. McCain was a principled man, an honorable man, just unable to see the error of his tribe’s ways.

When some of my friends, members of Code Pink Women for Peace, protested an appearance of warmonger Henry Kissinger before a Senate Committee chaired by McCain, he called the Code Pinkers “lowlife scum.” What else could he do? He had to show common courtesy. He had been a war prisoner for five years during the conflict Kissinger instigated.

McCain gets high marks for his extemporaneous, unrehearsed defense of his presidential opponent Barack Obama during a campaign appearance on Oct. 10, 2008, in Minnesota, when a woman told McCain she “just didn’t trust” Obama and that she believed he’s an Arab.

“No ma’am. No ma’am. No he’s not. He’s a decent family man that I just happen to have disagreements with,” McCain said.

It’s complex, but that reveals his dilemma, the dilemma of extant, toxic, American xenophobic thinking. Declaring that Obama is not an Arab but a decent family man suggests that he (we all) think, Arabs are indecent. I accept that it’s a minor point, but not when you consider that McCain voted against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday bill.

McCain was a principled man, an honorable man. But like most Americans who gleefully counted the barrels of oil they thought would be taken from Iraq and then marched in a war to have their way with that little country, they and McCain are on the wrong side of history.

It’s difficult for an oppressed subject to honor one of the fallen oppressors, except under duress. When the oppression ends, those who have been liberated may choose whom to honor. No man is a prince to his valet.

But compared to the present-day crop of greedy, self-serving, grifters commanding the national political scene, being in John McCain’s Washington was like taking a breath of fresh air. But sadly though, there can be no peace or victory for those who subscribe to the worn-out “American destiny” trope, neither the McCain version, nor the alt-right version taking hold lately, nor even the DNC version, vainly fighting back.

McCain, as well as his major political detractors, are just separate wings of the same bird.

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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