John McCain, a Personal View

Today is the last hurrah for John McCain.  I won’t review what has already been on the tube, in the papers and on the internet.  Among many such weeks in the past two years, the week just passed has been an exceedingly odd one, politically.


I’m reminded today of ten years ago – September 1, 2008, which happened to be Labor Day.  If you’re on Facebook, there is an album of 120 photographs I took during that week, click here.

That week in 2008, John McCain was nominated as Republican candidate for President in downtown St. Paul.  Labor Day (September 1) I was one of thousands who peacefully demonstrated, walking from the State Capitol to the Republican Convention area.  Later in the same week the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers sponsored Peace Island Conference (Peace Island Sep 2-3 08001) three miles or so from the Convention area, and after that a Peace Island celebration on Harriet Island directly across from the Republican Convention hall.

2008, especially September, is not remembered fondly by many.   Our country was very near economic collapse.  Then-President George W. Bush did not even come to the 2008 Republican Convention.

Labor Day 2008, St. Paul was militarized to an absurd degree, thanks to the extremely aggressive Ramsey county sheriff.  I heard of a very few skirmishes here and there, some rare vandalism.  But one could not be sure, even then, if one or more of these incidents had been provoked, or even carried out,  by elements in the protest suppression cadre – so-called ‘agents provacateurs‘.

I was part of the very successful Peace Island Conference.  It was so peaceful that it was not newsworthy.  Even those on the ‘left’ who were covering events preferred more ‘action’ elsewhere in St. Paul.

Sadly, peace does not sell papers, attract viewers, or advertisers.  Violence and mayhem does.

In the photos is a gunboat on the Mississippi.   Not in the photos but memorable  was an intimidating line of unmarked vehicles which slowly and conspicuously passed by those of us on Harriet Island.

Circus over, the St. Paul convention tent was taken down and off the Republicans went, led by Mr. McCain and one Sarah Palin.


John McCain.

I’ve watched how an assortment of people have summarized John McCain this week.

For me, John McCain departs as a class act, unfortunately part of a vanishing breed of old-school Republicans.  Some poll of declared Republicans this week showed that 88% approve of Trumps performance; 35% of McCains.  Those numbers are astonishing, yet indicative of where we are presently, as a country.

I’m not of McCains brand, but I think he was a decent person, a contributor to a better world.

I was at part of the Veterans for Peace conference in St. Paul a week ago, and my favorite photo is this one, worn by a participant.

At Veterans for Peace Conference, St. Paul, August 26, 2018

In our society, too many of us  seem to like to pick and choose the ways to glorify, or assassinate, friend or enemy, domestic or foreign makes no difference.  We seem more comfortable being against, than for….  We choose ‘war’ over ‘peace’.

My friends know where I stand on war and peace, and I would not stand in solidarity with Mr. McCain on many issues.

On the other hand, in a democracy such as ours (theoretically, at this point in our history), our lawmakers are chosen in free elections by the body politic – at local, state, national levels.  And anyone of us who lives in any kind of community knows that we do not all think alike, leaving our leaders in a quandary.  In the smallest of units, compromises and accommodations are essential for a civil society to survive.

(We live in a 96-unit, 24 building neighborhood with a homeowners association, and rules.  Even we need “laws” and “taxes” (dues) for the common good of our residents.  We do not always agree on everything.  Civil society is built on compromise.)

Bottom line, for me, is that as McCain completed his life, he was more than anything else a decent individual who made a significant and positive contribution to his nation.  He apparently knew relationships in his state pretty well.  His was a ‘safe’ seat.

No doubt John McCain made lots of mistakes in life – but don’t we all?

But he also took risks which most politicians would not dare to take – most notable for me was the very public rebuke of a citizen in a neighboring suburb of mine who, in 2008,  a person certain that Barack Obama – McCains competitor – was an Arab or worse: an enemy.

He could have let that act of stupidity go.  He chose to confront it, publicly.

He is at peace; the work is left with us.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”  Gandhi

COMMENTS (see also Word Press comments at the end of these comments):

from Bruce: I don’t think John McCain would be caught dead with the above T-shirt on. He never saw a war he didn’t like in my opinion.

Response from Dick: I have no disagreement with you. War was central to his family history, of course. As it is central to many in this country. (One of Eisenhower’s trusted aides in his first term, especially, was Harold Stassen, former Minnesota Governor and one of the original signers of the UN Charter.) Many opinions make up the U.S. We are in a dangerous time when there is a war to control the conversation. I hope we survive this war. I think McCain is trying to send a similar message in his memorial service, in progress as I write. Thanks for comment.

from Fred:  Nice piece about McCain. I was particularly interested in your experiences as a protestor during the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul. As an interested armchair bystander, I found the circus in downtown disturbing. There were shadings of the 1968 Chicago and Democratic Convention, but thankfully the St. Paul episode was minor in comparison. Of course, you were on the ground and might have a different opinion.  Very appropriately, you pictured Eisenhower’s great anti-war quote, one of my personal favorites, on a protestor’s t-shirt.

from Barbara: Kudos!  And with that rebuke McCain chose to speak to the person, not the camera, as Amy Goodman supposed he ought.  Did you hear the commentator on his 106 year old mother in the Rotunda ceremony? When she tried to rent a car in France at age 91 she was refused as too old.  So she bought one, drove it on her trip. Shipped it back – drove it home across the U.S.!

from JP: Like you I thought that John McCain was a good and a great American.

6 replies
  1. Judy Berglund
    Judy Berglund says:

    I remember this convention too, and remember my disdain for the militarized
    atmosphere. I remember my shock at the selection of an unknown named Sarah Palin.
    But I take issue with your statement that peace rallies “don’t sell newspapers.”
    I will always be a newspaper reporter, and assure you that no one who has ever done the job decides the merit of a story on the basis os whether it will sell newspapers! The free press today is facing an unprecedented attack! We don’t need liberals to join the war!

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Of course, I won’t take issue with your “take issue”, my friend. On the other hand, I don’t recall a single media word about our conference, and it wasn’t due to lack of effort! The local “dean” of reporting from the Left spent his time at the Convention area; a highly regarded west coast ‘progressive’ radio station set up an interview time with us…then cancelled for some more compelling news somewhere else. One of our speakers, one of the most well known folks of the left, cancelled the scheduled time as a speaker for a better deal: getting into the Convention hall. (I have just added to the post the actual program booklet for Peace Island. Take a look.) We didn’t set up the conference for media attention – it was an alternative to the Republican Convention.
      No, I have no complaints. The entire event was a really tremendous success, costly, but we broke even. It was a learning laboratory, for sure, about what ‘sells’ in America then…and now.

      • Judy Berglund
        Judy Berglund says:

        Well, the reporters erroneously decided that your event wasn’t newsworthy. But they didn’t say or think “this won’t sell newspapers.”

  2. Bill Habedank
    Bill Habedank says:

    When the Presidential candidate Hohn McCain came to Lakeville, we were standing on the street in opposition to the potential McCain presidency. McCains car drove right by me will I had my sign saying “a vote for McCain is a vote for more pain”. If he had won that may have well been true but the pain didn’t end even though he lost

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      Many thanks, Bill. Of course, we don’t know what McCain would have done were he President. We do know what we are stuck with at this time in history. Radicals have taken over the Republican party, and are basically working to make the checks and balances of a two-party system and three branches irrelevant at all levels. I think that is our major wake up call as a nation. November 6 is the first referendum, 2020 is the second.


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