It was a year ago today that America lost a hero.
Sen. John McCain, Navy pilot, prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years and Republican senator from Arizona for 31 years, died Aug. 25, 2018, after a battle with brain cancer.
McCain was a political maverick, a man not afraid to reach across the aisle to try and get something accomplished rather than maintaining a slavish devotion to straight party politics.
“The way you have bipartisan negotiations,” he once said, “you sit down across the table, as we did with Ted Kennedy, as I’ve done with many other members, and you say, ‘OK, here’s what I want, here’s what you want. We’ll adhere to your principles, but we’ll make concessions.”
That bipartisan spirit seems to be lacking in Congress today, not to mention in the country as a whole.
President Trump talks about building a wall along the border with Mexico to try and stem the tide of illegal immigration, but it seems a wall has already been built between Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate.
Sadly it’s not just Washington where this wall exists, and it creates a divide based not just on politics. Across the country we seem to be divided by so many things — among which are politics, religion, race, gay rights, abortion and guns.
We have retreated to our respective corners, laced up our gloves and are all too willing to come out fighting, rather than trying to at least communicate in search for some common ground.
People, by their very nature, are not going to agree on everything, and much of the time will see eye to eye on hardly anything.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t be civil to one another, which brings us back to the late, lamented Sen. McCain. With the anniversary of McCain’s death at hand his widow, Cindy, recently issued a call for Americans of all political stripes to be nicer to one another.
“It felt to me that the right thing to do was to encourage people to perform acts of civility,” to honor her late husband’s memory, Cindy McCain told National Public Radio. “Agree to disagree, but just be civil about it.”
Civility seems lacking in so many areas of our lives today. We have always had our differences, but we have in the past been able to sublimate our divergent points of view in order to maintain a positive relationship. No longer.
Earlier this week two members of a far-right group calling itself the Proud Boys were convicted for their roles in a 2018 New York City brawl with the anti-fascist group called Antifa.
In Portland, Ore., last weekend members of Antifa marched in opposition to a demonstration by a far-right group. The Portland police managed to keep the demonstrators apart after some early skirmishes.
Sometimes it seems those whose views are far on one side of the political fence forget that those on the other side have a right to their opinions, and have a right to express those opinions in public. The 1st Amendment is a double-edged sword, even if one side categorizes the views held by the other as “hate speech.”
In calling for a return to civil discourse, Cindy McCain has raised a voice of reason on the subject of political differences. A fist might break somebody’s nose and change their face but it is never going to change their heart or mind.
Fittingly, this also is National Kiss and Make Up Day, according to the National Day Calendar. This is the day set aside to end quarrels, arguments and fights.
This is the day for offering an apology to someone with whom you have had a dispute in the past, or for breaking the silence that has existed between you.
National Kiss and Make Up Day was founded in 1992 by Jacqueline Milgate of Hilton, N.Y.
“I thought that it would be a neat idea to have a day dedicated to making amends for relationships that need mending,” Milgate told the Huffington Post. “I come from an Italian family where there was a lot of discord.” For that purpose she chose Aug. 25, her birthday.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump to bury the hatchet? Or how about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer?
You don’t actually have to kiss and make up to adhere to the spirit of National Kiss and Make Up Day. Among the suggestions for mending fences with someone with whom you have clashed in the past are giving the person a call or writing them a letter, taking them a gift like a cake or pie or paying them a surprise visit.
Whichever way you choose to participate in National Kiss and Make Up Day will be an improvement on the current climate of sharp division in the nation.
For her part, Cindy McClain is cautiously optimistic that Democrats and Republicans can once again be friends.
“I think it’s going to take some time,” she told NPR. “There’s a lot of healing to be done. But I think we can do it.”
Sure we can, now pucker up, because rest assured you do not want me to bake you a pie.