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Of McCain and Pericles

“Such is the Athens for which these men, in the assertation of their resolve not to lose her, nobly fought. Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as theirs who have no such blessings to lose and also that the eulogy of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by definite proofs established. For the Athens that I have celebrated is only what the heroism of these and their like have made her, men whose fame, unlike that of most Hellenses, will be found to be no greater than what they deserve.”

Such spoke the Athenian statesmen Pericles regarding the deaths of men in the first year of the Peloponesian war.

Pericles spoke towards the character of the men and the nation for which these men died not only to highlight their valor and patriotism, but as a call for his fellow Athenian to emulate it.

Such is how we should view the passing of John McCain. Senator Susan Collins of Maine described him as such: “He truly was a giant in the Senate, a towering figure and someone who really made a difference not just on policy, but in asserting the Senate’s constitutional role”, resiliant in both his political and personal life.

As a navel aviator in the Vietnam War, Senator McCain was shot down in March of 1968 over Hanoi where he suffered broken arms and a shattered leg, two year of solitary confinement and torture. Refusing early repatriation on the military code that prisoners were to be released in the order taken. It would not be until March of 1973 that he would be released.

From there he entered into the political life, becoming the Senator from Arizona, a position which he would hold until his death. Always in the service of his country.

Poignant in this time is his 1993 commencement speech in Annapolis:

“I have spent time in the company of heroes,” he said. “I have watched men suffer the anguish of imprisonment, defy appalling cruelty until further resistance is impossible, break for a moment, then recover inhuman strength to defy their enemies once more. All these things and more I have seen. And so will you. I will go to my grave in gratitude to my Creator for allowing me to stand witness to such courage and honor. And so will you. My time is slipping by. Yours is fast approaching. You will know where your duty lies. You will know.”

Let’s follow the Periclean call to emulate the patriotism of the dead.