Home > Miscellaneous > A Personal Reflection On My Relationship With John McCain

A Personal Reflection On My Relationship With John McCain

The earliest I remember being aware of John McCain was the 2008 election cycle. I was a good republican then, despite years of being relatively apolitical after high school. I recall thinking most republicans voted for him in the primary, so he’s probably the guy I would’ve voted for in the primaries as well. I didn’t know much about him, but he seemed to be a typical republican choice for president so I supported him.

In 2007, the housing market fell dramatically. In 2008, the whole economy crashed. The housing bubble, which began as soon as the tech bubble ended, popped. This event initiated a massive drop in the stock market and a very long recession. I realized how devastating this was on many people and this realization sparked my curiosity. I became very curious and began asking questions about what would cause such an event. This inquiry overcame my apoliticism and led me to an ever increasing interest in and awareness of politics.

It was at this point that my knowledge of McCain grew. I started listening to talk radio. I read political news articles. I learned about the candidates’ platforms. I watched the debates, interviews, appearances on other television shows, and the like. As I watched and learned, while I disagreed with a few of his positions, I really liked the man, John McCain.

I could rewatch some of these things to recall them more clearly, but I feel like it’s more fitting for this particular post to rely on my memory of television events from a decade ago rather than watch them again and have brand new thoughts about them.

I only recall a few specifics from the debates, but I do recall feeling like both candidates came across as very presidential during them. McCain got heated at times, but he was generally respectful to Obama, especially afterward. He had sensible answers to most of the questions. He stood his ground. And most of the time he was able to disagree and argue with a smile, a joke, a smirk, and a pleasant dignity. He often came across this way on television appearances.

One of the things I remember most is his appearance on Saturday Night Live. He was jovial. He was genuinely funny. He was self-deprecating. He always had some sort of smile on his face, even when it was just a smirk. There was a peaceful lightness about him even in a potentially hostile environment. John McCain’s personality, even if someone disagreed with him vehemently politically, was difficult to dislike. Thus, given that I mostly agreed with him politically, I liked him very much.

I wasn’t very happy about McCain supporting the bank bailouts, but I still voted for him in 2008 with pride, despite knowing he didn’t have a shot at getting elected. McCain lost of course. His concession speech, to my memory, was quite good and complimentary despite the divisive campaigns. McCain remained in the spotlight to varying degrees until his recent death.

My awareness of politics and the continuous process of educating myself about government meant that I’ve paid attention to him over the last 10 years. As I paid attention, learned, and grew in love, my opinion of John McCain began to shift.

When I voted for him in 2008, I was still all about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Yeah, they went on a little longer than they should have. No, they still hadn’t found the WMDs in Iraq, but they were well hidden in the tunnel systems. Yes, a lot of innocent civilians were killed and displaced. Yes, the various regions were seriously destabilized and dangerous for minority groups during these wars. But these problems would be improved overall once the US won them completely.

And “we” had to go into Afghanistan because the Taliban = Al Qaeda. These crazy terrorists just wanted to see death and destruction rain down on the US because “we” were christians, we were wealthy, and we had freedom. They hated us for these reasons and would stop at nothing to get rid of us. And we had to go into Iraq because of WMDs, democracy, something about the Kurds, Saddam was crazy, and Iraq probably helped Al Qaeda with 911 too… right?

When I learned more about politics, these justifications did not withstand reason and evidence. It turns out history didn’t begin on 911. The terrorists weren’t merely insane muslim demon spawn who hated the good things about the US. They actually had some legitimate gripes and were rational actors willing to sacrifice themselves in the pursuit of specific political ends (this should go without saying, but I know for some it still doesn’t: This doesn’t make their actions any less despicable). The Taliban offered Osama to the US. Saddam actually did destroy the WMDs which the US helped him acquire in the first place. The wars were actually bringing instability to the region and destroying the lives of the average citizen, not helping them. I must stop this list here or else I will end up writing the longest paragraph in the history of mankind.

In this significant area, I had now departed from McCain. Where I once praised his position, I now criticized it. He was no longer a champion of justice to me, but a champion of aggressive wars against nations which had never attacked the US. He was a central cheerleader, promoter, and deceiver for government activities which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, a few thousand US soldiers, and left many other people displace, wounded, maimed, full of PTSD, internal emotional confusion, and led to many suicides. These were not the actions of a hero or an honorable man.

It would be one thing if he learned from his experience with Afghanistan and Iraq (lessons he could have learned from Vietnam many decades earlier), repented, and changed. This would have been respectable. He didn’t. He said the US should be in Iraq for 100 years if that’s what it took. He supported further action all over the world. He was a reliable promoter of every one of Obama’s wars. He regularly propagated the lies and half-truths used to sell the wars to the American people. He supported the arming of jihadis and bombings of Libya, which now has a burgeoning slave trade, and Syria. Both places where the strongest fighting groups in their civil wars were either Al Qaeda, ISIS, or groups which swore loyalty to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the butcher of New York. He backed the Ukrainian revolt which included a bunch of neo-nazis. He supported the U.S.’s role in the Saudi’s commission of war crimes in yemen, which has resulted in mass starvation and the world’s worst cholera outbreak. These are the actions of a villain.

Since I’ve been more aware of the political realm, I also saw many of McCain’s lies, flip flops, misrepresenting of himself, and foundationless accusations of his fellow politicians. Granted, he is not exceptionally bad in this area, as this kind of behavior is so common among politicians it is hardly worth noting. But it is still not justified. It is still unethical. It still shows a lack of integrity and hunger for power over others. Just because other people like him also engage in it, his deceptions aren’t any less reprehensible.

Like most republican senators, his voting record is abysmal. He’s as pro big government and anti-freedom as they come. He has zero qualms with voting for bills which give government powers which are obviously not enumerated in the constitution and trample human rights. He mostly only ever opposed such bills for political purposes when they were proposed by the democrats and voted for them when they fit the republican party line.

In the last decade, I’ve learned more history than I ever thought I would know. I never studied the history of John McCain in particular, but he shows up quite a few times. I learned about things like: the Keating Five, the mass murder of civilians in Vietnam by bombing targets like a light bulb factory, McCain’s attempt to shut down those who sought to free the POWs left in Vietnam and protect government bureaucrats, reasons to question his integrity as a POW and pilot, a long history of entitlement and a hot temper, his support of war crimes in Iraq which targeted water supply systems and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, cheating on his wife and his subsequent divorce, and his persistent support of the Saudis despite their atrocious human rights record and financial support of Al-Qaeda, including the handlers of the 911 hijackers.

In all of these things, despite infrequent angry outbursts, John McCain was the same man I watched on Saturday Night Live. He is charming. He looks happy. He’s always smiling and periodically has something witty to say. He is friendly, often even to political opponents. Personal stories abound of very pleasant interactions with the man. He is congenial, likeable, and appears to be both respectful and respectable.  

John McCain embodies the pretense of civility which defines the State. With one hand, he kills, promotes death, destruction, disorder. With the other, he presents an amiable personality, professionalism, compassion, and honor. The State is an organization which exists through aggressive violence on peaceful people to benefit the ruling class all while pretending it exists to help those same people and keep them safe. No wonder McCain spent his whole life serving Leviathan.

John McCain is a friend to many and a hero. He is a friend of wars, deception, spying, political corruption, and tyranny. He is a hero of aggressive violence. But he is an enemy of human rights, freedom, and peace. A monster to humanity.

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