For me, it was impossible to watch he news coverage of John McCain’s passing without being overwhelmed by memories of my father, William E. Wynne Sr. 1925-2017. While I could write at length of differences, they had far more in common than not, particularly on the matter of showing ones devotion to the ideals and values of our Nation. While my father graduated from the Naval Academy a decade before McCain, and his tombstone in Arlington lists two other wars besides the one he shared with McCain, the crucible and tests of character remained unchanged, and for this reason, produced many men of similar character, perhaps your father or grandfather among them.
If you were not fortunate enough to have one of them in your family, let me offer this observation: There is a wealth of particularly good literature, both autobiographical and the work of historians which will offer you a harsh and unflinching look at the character and values of such men. Diametrically opposed to this is the shallow wash of opinions offered by our ‘journalists ‘ and media, people who rarely put any effort into understanding any topic in depth, and the partisan axe grinders they use as ‘experts.’ One of the weakest things about our nation isn’t the divisions of opinions held, it is the fact that 90% of the people in this country only use the opinions they heard in broadcast media to form their own opinion. If you doubt this, just ask the next 10 people who offer you a strong opinion which book they read had the greatest influence. You will have your unpleasant answer
Above, a great book, 1/5 of it offers and incredibly insightful look at the motivations of John McCain. Timberg was the ideal journalist to write this highly influential look at the mindset of five Naval Academy graduates and their actions around the Iran Contra Affair. Timberg was a 1964 Academy graduate, a Marine horrifically wounded by a mine in Vietnam. The book pictured was my fathers, now sitting on my dining room table. It has a very warm inscription from Timberg to my father inside. Fair Warning: If you want to keep an idealistic view of President Reagan, do not read this book, it shows in great detail the president throwing a blindly loyal Marine Lt. Col. under an ugly bus of political expediency.
Our 2008 Presidential election pitted two very different men as opponents. Ask 75% of Americans, and they will share glowing admiration for one man and often very harsh criticism of the other. Each of these candidates had previously written a very strong account their fathers, McCains “Faith of My Fathers” about expectations he couldn’t meet, and Obama’s “Dreams of my Father” about a man he longed to know. They are both moving books, but you will find that almost no one with an opinion has even read the book of their champion, far less read both. Instead they were all too willing to simply listen to media, (who in most cases never read the books either) and simply parrot the opinions and pathetically shallow commentary of their media branch which offers them warm fuzzy validation. They hold opinions, based solely on opinions.
For a simple example, notice how many times media people call McCain a “fighter pilot.” He was nothing of the sort. He is also erroneously called a “bomber pilot.” It takes very little understanding to correctly refer to McCain as a “Naval Aviator in Attack aircraft” The difference is very important to people who were in the Navy, like my neighbor who was sitting in the A-4 next to McCains on the deck of the Forrestal. If you want a valid opinion, read a few books, particular ones you find disagreeable, and they listen to a man who was there. Alternatively, you could just watch people on TV.
Your Aviation Connection:
People in aviation are at least as bad as the national average for avoiding reading and repeating old wives tales. They frequently hold and repeat opinions about aircraft, aerodynamics, power plants, history, maintenance, safety, etc which they directly learned by listening to people who also had no understanding of these topics. I have been in aviation for 29 years, and I have no explanation for this. On evenings where sipping beer and looking at the sunset offers inadequate solace, I resort to softly repeating the mantra “God has a sense of humor I am yet to understand.”
4 Replies to “Thought for the Day: Opinions based solely on Opinions”
I have disagreed with Senator McCain’s political stances, but I have never challenged his honesty nor dedication to our nation, and his willingness to work with those who disagreed with him to make our nation a better place.
What I didn’t know was that Joe Biden, as a Senator, often had contact with McCain while he was in the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs. (Eventually commanding it). They enjoyed each other’s company, traveled together often, and, when Biden’s son came down with the same cancer that Senator McCain died of, provided a huge amount of support.
Senators, on both sides of the aisle, as well as political office holders and rivals and associates, have nothing but praise for him.
I support the renaming of the Senate Office building in honor of John McCain, as proposed by former Vice-President Biden. Biden is a Democrat, and the building is now named after a Democrat, but he was a staunch segregationist, but the fact that Biden is seeking to rename the building after McCain is a measure of McCain’s respect from across the aisle.
As to awarding Senator McCain the Medal of Honor, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that it is awarded to military personnel who showed courage and valor under fire. As heroic as McCain’s actions were in the Hanoi Hilton, he doesn’t fit that strict criteria.
McCain, because he decided not to follow current political or economic theories pushed by one party or another, but to look at the facts, was a hero in the Senate as well as his military service.
Rest in Peace, Senator John McCain
Dan, thanks for a detailed and thoughtful post. Look up the citation for James Stockdale’s CMH, May have some precedence.-ww
I specifically worded my comment in the way I did because of Medal of Honor recipient James Stockdale. As the ship’s commander when he was captured, and, as such, he endured much more ill treatment from the beginning than any other officer. His acts of self-disfigurement to prevent the North Koreans from using him for propaganda purposes brought him even more torture.
I am not, in any way, denigrating McCain’s courage as a Navy officer, however he was only the 5th senior officer in the Hanoi Hilton. His being targeted for torture was a result of his father’s post, not so much because of his rank or responsibility for his fellow prisoners.
I know that it is a fine line between the behaviors and treatment of the two men, and I feel it a decision whether or not the medal of honor should be made should be left to others, and not me. I would hate that the award be given because of his political stature, because, in a way, each POW in the Hanoi Hilton deserves our respect and honor.
McCain acted with honor after his captivity, and that surely enhanced his reputation as a human being, but the medal is awarded for military service.
I always wished I could feel this at the end
Robert Louis Stevens poem; Requiem:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
If G-d did not have a sense of humor, and a little pity,. How could G-D put up with us.