Ed­i­tor’s let­ter

The Week (US) - - 3 - Wil­liam Falk

John McCain still has some­thing to say, even if a White House press aide doesn’t think a dy­ing man’s thoughts mat­ter. “I don’t re­mem­ber an­other time in my life when so many Amer­i­cans con­sid­ered some­one’s par­ti­san af­fil­i­a­tion a test of whether that per­son is en­ti­tled to re­spect,” the Ari­zona se­na­tor writes in a new book. He fears we have lost our way. “Prin­ci­pled com­pro­mises that move the coun­try for­ward,” he says, are es­sen­tial to a func­tion­ing democ­racy. Most unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants “are de­cent peo­ple work­ing hard to make bet­ter lives,” not the rapists or drug deal­ers de­picted by dem­a­gogues. Tor­ture, which he per­son­ally en­dured as a POW, is a moral abom­i­na­tion that al­ways de­bases both the tor­tured and the tor­turer. Our na­tion is di­min­ished by “a half-baked, spu­ri­ous na­tion­al­ism” that has traded true global lead­er­ship for self-in­ter­est and iso­la­tion. Amer­ica’s “de­vo­tion to hu­man rights is our truest her­itage,” he re­minds us. “We are a coun­try with a con­science.” In his 35 years in pol­i­tics, McCain, 81, was no saint; he could be petty and vin­dic­tive, and some­times parked his prin­ci­ples to win elec­tions. But I al­ways sensed he looked hard at the man in the mir­ror and judged him­self for his fail­ings. Honor mat­ters to this old-school politi­cian and pa­triot, and for that alone he de­serves re­spect. Now McCain is show­ing us how to die. A good death is a rare and in­valu­able gift, es­pe­cially in our med­i­cal­ized cul­ture. McCain re­cently left the hos­pi­tal where he was be­ing treated for brain can­cer and went home to his ranch, where he is say­ing good­bye to his fam­ily and a steady pro­ces­sion of friends from both par­ties; in quiet mo­ments, he finds peace in watch­ing the hawks and hum­ming­birds and lis­ten­ing to a bur­bling stream and the wind in the trees. (See Talk­ing Points.) John McCain is flawed, like all of us. But he has led a life of mean­ing, ser­vice, and de­cency. We should all be so for­tu­nate to live and die with such dig­nity and courage. Ed­i­tor-in-chief

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