The Parthenon

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EDITORIAL: The poetic tragedy of John McCain’s death

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When news broke that longtime U.S. senator and twice presdential candidate John McCain died from his battle with brain cancer, the nation was stunned. This was a man who epitomized the American ideal of a patriot: a decorated war hero who spent decades of his life as a public servant. The Arizona republican received messages of honor and respect from members of both parties, including his most recent presidential opponent, Barack Obama.

“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics,” Obama said in a public statement. “But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher-the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.”

As the nation eulogizes McCain, the one clear attribute expressed by many is a recognition of McCain’s honest integrity, a moral leadership that transcended personal and party interest.

“The outpouring of tributes to McCain is not only a testament to who he was but to the hunger people have to return to the values he lived by,” Margie Warrel wrote in Forbes. “Like integrity.  It is the foundation upon which all successful lives, organizations and countries are built. Without it, eventually even the most impressive and tallest ‘house of cards’ eventually tumbles down.”

In a time of deep political turmoil, McCain was often shone as a bright light for the conduct of a senator. He represented an old school style of politics that put love of country above any other motivation. With his death, this light has dimmed, and the capitol in Washington feels darker than ever. With his voice silenced, shouts from across the political aisle seem louder. The era of politics in which McCain entered into many years ago is officially over. 

In his own farewell address, McCain offered the American people one final message, a message that he lived out beautifully in all his years of public service. 

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe, McCain wrote. “We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been… But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.”

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