Na­ture, nur­ture and com­mu­nity

The Amherst News - - OPINION - Shirley Hallee Shirley Hallee is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Amherst. Her col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Amherst News.


Re­cently a se­ries of farewells took place cel­e­brat­ing the life of United States Se­na­tor John McCain. The cer­e­monies, ac­tu­ally pre-planned by McCain, re­flected the strength and char­ac­ter of the man. In the few days prior to his burial we were re­minded of his brav­ery, strength, and re­silience dur­ing the pe­riod of time when he was cap­tured and held as a pris­oner of war.

Even though he was not ex­pected to sur­vive the in­juries af­ter eject­ing from his plane, he not only sur­vived but is cred­ited with help­ing oth­ers through that dif­fi­cult time. He was of­fered an early re­lease but de­clined and in­di­cated that those who had been held longer than him must be freed first. He paid a price for that form of re­sis­tance.

In a pe­riod of a few days – from the time of the McCain’s death through the var­i­ous ser­vices held in mem­ory of his life - it be­came ap­par­ent he was a per­son com­mit­ted to serv­ing the greater good. He was a mem­ber of the hu­man com­mu­nity. How much of his strength of char­ac­ter re­sulted from na­ture? How much was from nu­ture, and what im­pact did his sense of com­mu­nity have on how he lived his life?

McCain’s grand­fa­ther and fa­ther were four-star ad­mi­rals in the navy so there was a tra­di­tion of serv­ing his coun­try through mil­i­tary ser­vice. The sit­u­a­tion that took the man be­yond what might have been part of the nur­ture as­pect of life was his sur­vival as a cap­tured pris­oner of war. Sur­vival be­came the fo­cus and pri­or­ity McCain and his fel­low pris­on­ers.

Jour­nal­ist Se­bas­tian Junger has writ­ten a book en­ti­tled Tribe. He re­counts how early civ­i­liza­tions sur­vived through co-op­er­a­tion, and then points to sit­u­a­tions in mod­ern times where pop­u­la­tions got through hor­ri­ble con­di­tions by help­ing each other. Sur­vival de­pended on “hav­ing each other’s back” and by shar­ing food, warmth, and shel­ter. He re­counts how peo­ple deal­ing with wars, hur­ri­canes, earth­quakes, and min­ing dis­as­ters sup­port each other...thus, sur­vive.

McCain would have ex­pe­ri­enced the nur­tur­ing from his par­ents and grand­par­ents. He also would have been “nur­tured” by his fel­low pris­on­ers of war even though much of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion would have been done by the tap­ping of code. Still, his sur­vival also was de­pen­dent on his own in­ner strength.

McCain had a very strong sense of com­mu­nity. Part of this sense might have been from his up­bring­ing, and a good por­tion prob­a­bly came from his life ex­pe­ri­ences. Ev­i­dence of that sense of com­mu­nity ap­peared when he cast his vote against party lines and voted against the repeal of Obama Care.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s will­ing­ness to take health care from his cit­i­zens would in­di­cate he does not have a sense of com­mu­nity. His iso­la­tion­ist at­ti­tude in­di­cates a lack of com­mu­nity at a global level. His re­cent state­ment re­gard­ing un­will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise re­gard­ing free trade with Canada in­di­cates that he does not wish to be part of a larger com­mu­nity.

I am writ­ing this well ahead of the time it will be pub­lished. Much can hap­pen in that time. I ex­pect John McCain’s legacy might have some im­pact on the Repub­li­can con­gress. I sus­pect it will not have much im­pact on the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. He doesn’t have the na­ture, nu­ture, or sense of com­mu­nity that was within John McCain.

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