Nature, nurture and community
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.