I will confess that I had grown weary of the McCain POW war hero story. It just always seemed like a patriotism one-upmanship thing to me. I was glad when Fred Thompson (I think it was him) acknowledged that being a POW does not qualify one to be president. I was glad to hear that said. But all in all my reaction had "OK, do we have to hear that story again!"
Last night in listening to McCain I think I finally got it. Frankly I was moved, to tears, as he talked about being thankful for his sufferings for what they taught him. And to get a feel for the thousands of acts of kindness, courage, encouragement, support, love, real and true love, POW to POW gave me another insight to McCain's heart. But mostly it was understanding how the event changed the man.
It seems McCain had a kind of conversion (not necessarily a religious one though it may have been, I don't know), a personal transformation that reached into the core of his person as he walked through his suffering. He learned through suffering. He learned a lot about himself, his pride, has selfishness, his cockiness, his independent spirit. And he ultimately survived and avoided suicide or death by withering away because he was loved and served and encouraged by his fellow prisoners. He was a broken man physically and otherwise, but not just in the sense that he finally gave in to the torture and said things his torturers told him to say. No, it was deeper, a deeper kind of being broken.
I understand now John McCain's motivation, his gratitude, his desire to give back, to give of himself in public service. I am reminded of Tom Hank's character in saving Private Ryan and those haunting words at the end, "Earn this." Of course no man could possibly earn such a thing, and I am brought to tears every time I watch the grown up Private Ryan at the end of that movie weighted down by that terrible burden.
I don't think McCain carries that sort of dreadful burden. His I think is more a burden of gratitude, of service, of giving back, of wanting to make better the country that provided the men who loved him and served him and kept him alive. The narrative makes sense to me now. His "America first" makes sense to me now - not merelty some patriotic blather but a deeply ingrained perspective forged in his sufferings.
It doesn't mean that all of his quirks left him, or that he had no more pride to deal with. But it is very easy to read pride into a man bucking the system than one playing by its rules when it isnlt really there.
And I really don't think McCain gives a lick about party. He just fits better in one than the other.
Calling education THE civil rights issue of the 21st century I think is profound and spot on. I agreed with every single word he said on that subject.
I also thought is was deeply thought provoking to speak of how our present approaches to a multitude of issues were formed under a different set of assumptions and rules, and that we have to adjust to the new world we find ourselves in - adjust and change in almost every area of government. I think that that is a profound thought which I have not heard articulated in this campaign and which I think is correct. The old guy, the grey haired one, he seems to be the one most in tune with today, and how we must adjust and change to address creativelty the new world in which we find ourselves - that new "flat" earth we now walk upon.
All in all I was most moved in both conventions by John McCain. I look forward to voting for him.