U.S. Sen. John McCainPhoto: Associated Press
WARNING: Heresy ahead.
Sentiment vs. Self-Loathing. Forgiveness vs. Forgetfulness. A Part of the Solution vs. A Part of the Problem.
For some, the revelation that he has brain cancer has transmogrified “Senator McShame” into “Good Ole John McCain.” Such sudden sentimentality about our enemies is not new in the LGBT community, and, indeed, some see it as a virtue. I do not. I believe that “it’s not the earth the meek inherit but the dirt,” and that the fear of being thought “unkind” is a symptom of unconsciously joining in blaming the victim even when that victim is you. What would such people say if it were Donald Trump?
It’s one thing not to wish McCain further ill — and I don’t — and another to suddenly declare him — as I’ve repeatedly seen in the last 24 hours — a virtual saint. “One of my all time heroes,” wrote a famous gay veteran and activist. “A man who put country first in every argument and every fight,” wrote an active duty/activist gay sailor. “I’ve always had great respect for him (until Palin lol) despite our political differences,” a lesbian veteran and editor of an LGBT newspaper said.
Similar incongruous comments are being made by other LGBT people, but I focus on those from veterans because none of McCain’s history of homophobic actions for a “straights-only” country are as heinous as those affecting LGBs in the military – including those now praising him as a “hero.”
From his fierce opposition in 1993 to ending the WWII-era ban to his years-long opposition to even discussing repealing so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” from breaking his 2006 promise to follow the recommendation of military leaders on repeal to his willfully stupid defense of it the same year in a meeting with gay journalists where he pathetically sputtered over and over like a short-circuited robot that, under DADT, the military never went after gays.
“I don’t care what you say. They do not. They do not. They do not.”
It culminated in his McShameful last ditch effort to prevent passage of the repeal bill moments before the final vote.
Worst of all, he chose to regurgitate the repulsive nonsense of then-Commandant of the Marines James Amos that allowing gays to serve openly could get marines killed.
“Today’s a very sad day. The commandant of the United States Marine Corps says when your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting… I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen and I’ll tell you why. You go up to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Marines are up there with no legs, none. You’ve got Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs,” he said.
What a hero!
Some are singing his praises for having spoken in 2001 at a memorial service for gay Mark Bingham, one of the heroic passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 credited with wrestling control from hijackers who had rerouted it toward Washington DC, and dying in the process.
Unlike some false memories, McCain did not cry, but he did say, “I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph. Such a debt you incur for life. I will try very hard, very hard, to discharge my public duties in a manner that honors their memory.”
How did McCain repay that “debt?” How did he “honor” Mark’s memory? Not just by fighting tooth and nail to preserve the ban on gays in the military, but also by fighting against marriage equality, gay adoption, the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes bill, open transgender service, and, until 2013, employment non-discrimination laws.
To be fair, McCain did grow a bit. In addition to finally dropping his opposition to anti-gay job discrimination, he criticized Russia’s “laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn,” made statements against claims of religious exemption for businesses refusing services to gays, and supported the appointment of Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army – the first openly gay head of a branch of the military.
But I am aware of no instance in which he apologized for supporting laws codifying bigotry against gay people himself. Nor to the some 14,000 more LGBs who were needlessly kicked overboard during DADT’s existence; a law whose creation he supported and perpetuation he fought for.
He could have been a hero in 1993 by speaking out for a country to embrace all of its citizens. He didn’t. He could have been a hero in 2010 in the same way. He wasn’t then either.
Even fatal illness doesn’t erase that fact or his responsibility.
He should be held accountable in other areas too. The recasting him as a hero actually began before yesterday among people prematurely thrilled with McCain’s public criticisms of Trump.
As the old expression goes, actions speak louder than words, and according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, as of June 14th, McCain has backed Trump’s positions 90.5% of the time – including voting for the appointments of multiple right wing extremists and incompetents such as Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Tom Price as Secretary of Health & Human Services, Ben Carson as Secretary of HUD, Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, Mike Mulvaney to head the OMB, Dan Coats to director of national intelligence – and for a budget resolution to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Be well, Senator, but you are not my hero and never will be.