Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain showed me a lot and not so much

I watched John McCain's acceptance speech last night and was impressed with his story which I had never really heard before. I knew about the war record, the prisoner of war experience, and his public service but I was not aware of his conversion experience during his imprisonment. He told that story in a convincing and touching way. In the Christian tradition, it was a story of death and resurrection. He was forced to confront his radical individualism by being placed in a position of weaknesses and utter helplessness. His fellow prisoners kept him alive since he could not even feed himself. He learned that going it alone was not the path to a full human life, a life of meaning. Even when his captors broke him, he found through another prisoner the strength to continue on with the full knowledge that he was human and thus breakable. Out of those horrid experiences, he came to a realization that his life had meaning only in service to others. His life since then has certainly been consistent with that realization. He is a true hero, not because he served his country so courageously but because he faced his own humanity in a way that resulted in commitment to service, compassion, and honesty. This is a story that speaks to all of us and the ways in which each of us must likewise confront our humanity and grow because of it.

If, as McCain's campaign manager had said, this election were not about issues, the choice between Obama and McCain would a difficult one for me. But this campaign and election is about issues and policies. Both men are deeply devoted to America and the promise it holds for us and the world community. Both men place "country first." To suggest that only McCain does is frankly an insult to Obama, to his supporters, and to me. Let us differ about policy and direction but not about our commitment to our country.

When both candidates are such exemplary human beings, it is even more essential to be guided by the political parties of each. The Twentieth Century brought us Social Security, Medicare, federally funded health research, space exploration, rebuilding of Europe and Japan, federal aid in so many ways to education, the end of segregation, expansion of civil rights, etc. because democrat presidents led the way. Harry Truman's 1948 acceptance speech reads as if it could be given today in terms of the issues he saw as important to our country. The democrats have remained largely faithful to that heritage. The republicans have typically been the opposition in those fights. They continue today to argue for a lessening of the government's role in these programs and the impact they have on ordinary people. The result has been a definitive increase in income inequality during the Bush years; the rich have gotten even richer and the lower and the middle classes have fallen behind.

Regardless of the enthusiasm of party loyalists on both sides, it is incumbent on us to be clear headed about the policies and issues. This is too important an election to be ourselves be swayed by personal stories, clever slogans, and appeals to our fears.

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