McCain’s departure signifies a loss of civil discourse

By Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer

Sen. John McCain was one of the few lasting examples of polite discourse in today’s political atmosphere. Students can tell the difference, and I hope his departure will spark a desire for respect and friendship between political rivals, resembling McCain’s humility in the political sphere.

McCain’s stances as a Republican regarding civil rights and his demeanor and friendships with people who were different from him are rare in today’s world. Though most of his stances corresponded with those of his party’s, Former President George W. Bush said of him, “He respected the dignity inherent in every life – a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power – could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something deep inside him that made him stand up for the little guy, to speak for forgotten people in forgotten places.”

It’s pitiful that his friendships with rivals who saw nobility in him are so notable and almost unbelievable in today’s politics.

It is refreshing, however, that his nobility is so widely recognized. His funeral has dominated the news for over a week. That shows how important the issues of polite discourse, respect and collaboration are to Americans right now.

McCain’s legacy will be as a noble patriot. McCain invited Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both political rivals of McCain, to speak at his funeral.

“It’s politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that,” Obama said.

Bush said McCain’s voice will always be a whisper over our shoulder that “America is better than this.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Arizona Coyotes player Shane Doan and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez were among his pallbearers. Trump was not invited.

Even as a Democrat, I feel sentimental about McCain’s passing. I feel sentimental about his unlikely friendships and accomplishments, as well as concern about what Washington will look like without his influence. Apparently this feeling is not uncommon, even among our most prominent leaders. I think it was McCain’s hope, too, that his departure would inspire people to require a higher standard for political discussion and respect for one’s opponent.

President Donald Trump exhibits behavior we were taught to avoid since we were toddlers. Statista, a statistics portal for thousands of studies, compiled a chart of Trump’s insults and names he has called people on Twitter. According to this chart, as of June 2018, he has used the word “loser” 246 times. Rather than cooperate with other politicians, he prefers to take to Twitter to air his grievances. Unlike admired presidents of the past, Trump does not inspire the American people, he caters to his following and sees everyone else as an enemy.

Many people recognize that their leaders lack maturity. I hope that in the aftermath of McCain’s death, others begin to see that as well.

What started as an anti-hate protest after the 2016 election and then became the anti-Trump, anti-Hillary protest on campus ended up as a gathering of students around two people expressing their opposing viewpoints. Tensions were high, and people were upset. However, they remained civil in expressing their viewpoints even as they were brutally honest about their disagreements and feelings about the other’s beliefs.

McCain took civility a step further. He not only disagreed with his opponents in a civil manner, but he also befriended them and others that would seem like unlikely matches. His rivals respected him and so did the country, and this was demonstrated by the fact that he became the 31st American to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. His story of sacrifice and honor pulls on the hearts of many Americans, and I hope it will provoke a higher expectation of discourse for our leaders and a standard of respect that we seem to have lost.

Lizzie is a junior journalism major from Waco.