In the days since Sen. John McCain left us, the tributes have been stirring, and the recollections a rich mix of inspiring biographical moments and humorous personal anecdotes, filling out the full measure of a man so many of us loved dearly.
The most memorable for many was a moment from the 2008 presidential campaign when McCain confronted one of his own supporters at a town hall in Lakeville, Minn.
When she told McCain she couldn’t trust then-candidate Barack Obama because “he’s an Arab,” McCain grabbed her microphone and said, famously, “No ma’am. No ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
Perhaps no moment in modern political history so clearly and instantaneously revealed a man’s true character than that one.
There’s another moment from that same town hall that gets less attention, though it is just as powerful and equally as revealing.
Another supporter says to McCain: “Frankly, we’re scared. We’re scared of an Obama presidency.”
McCain replied: “I have to tell you — he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.”
His response was met with some jeers from a crowd that maybe wanted him to indulge their fears.
In his eloquent farewell response, McCain echoed that sentiment nearly 10 years later, imploring us not to traffic in fear.
“We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times.”
He continued, “Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
Politics has long been a place where fear and loathing are exploited : fear of progress, fear of the unknown, fear of the other, fear of our own neighbors . That McCain resisted an opportunity to turn our fear against each other then, when the stakes were so high, is remarkable. It’s even more remarkable now.
It feels as though there is much to fear these days. Though we are more prosperous a nation and more connected a global community than ever before, many of us still feel lonely, disoriented and uncertain of the future.
The reckless, feckless and corrupt character of our current political leadership has something to do with that, perhaps. But there’s also been tectonic shifts in the way we interact due less to politics and more to technology that have upended the way we treat each other.
That McCain left us with words that are meant to relieve our anxieties and dissolve our fears instead of stoke them tells you everything you need to know about the man.
I’m grateful for McCain for so many things. As an American, I’m grateful for his service. As a conservative, I’m grateful for his commitment to principle. As a Republican, I believe no one has better modeled the civility, decency, compassion and strength our party is capable of when we are at our best.
But it’s as a human being, who is admittedly concerned about where our great nation is headed, that I am most thankful for his final reminder that we need not be afraid.
I needed to hear that. We all do. Thank you, John McCain.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on HLN. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .