I vehemently disagree with John McCain on almost all political issues. He is a war obsessed conservative who has been on the wrong side of very military issue I can think of, an enemy of social security and the welfare state, and no friend to women’s rights. I also think he is a brave war hero, a personally decent man, and one of the only Republicans with enough integrity to publicly oppose Donald Trump and vote against him.
I found the news that McCain had terminal brain cancer very sad. The enormous suffering he and his family must be going through is something you wouldn’t wish on anyone. My grandmother, whom I never knew, died from brain cancer leaving my mother and her sibling parentless as teenagers (my grandfather had died several years before that). I know that she suffered immensely, and the effect on her family is something I will never fully understand. Whatever John McCain, or anyone else for that matter, may have done throughout their life does not merit brain cancer, and anyone celebrating his imminent passing is psychopathically cruel — a trait those on the far right and far left apparently share.
In the past week, leftists like Caitlin Johnstone have published articles like this:
And Trump conservatives have declared his death a good thing so that they can allow a pro torture candidate to become the next CIA chief:
A WH official confirms WH aide Kelly Sadler mocked John McCain’s cancer diagnosis saying “he’s dying anyway” in response to his opposition to Haspel nomination. The “joke… fell flat” the official said.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 10, 2018
The reasoning for celebrating McCain’s demise may differ, but the end result is the same — a gleeful reaction to a dying man in order to fulfill some ideologically determined objective. Johnstone believes that McCain’s involvement in US wars makes him fair game, and Kelly Sadler likely thinks that torture helps saves American lives, so McCain’s passing is a good thing that can be joked about.
No matter how abhorrent the person, it is, at least in my opinion, reprehensible to celebrate their death (“like munchkins” as Johnstone puts it). When US forces killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, I went to the White House to report on the celebrations. I left feeling empty and saddened by the joy thousands of people were expressing over the killing of another human being. Of course I hated everything Osama Bin Laden stood for and did, but I did not celebrate his death or take joy in the suffering his family must have gone through. Murdering psychopaths are still deserving of human empathy, and while you don’t need to be sad about them dying, it reveals much about your character if you take pleasure from it.
Johnstone’s hatred for anyone she deems to be “the enemy” of her fanatical ideology is ostensibly about loving peace, but in reality it is a sign of her own viciousness. I find Johnstone to be morally reprehensible — a narcissistic, utterly shameless fraud, writing provocative “think pieces” to get money from equally dysfunctional keyboard warriors who believe she is some sort of martyr. And yet I would never wish ill on her, never take pleasure in her physical pain, trauma or death. The same goes for Kelly Sadler — a clearly horrible person who thought it appropriate to joke about a man dying from one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. She is still a human being, still worthy of dignity and still worthy of respect.
The world would undoubtedly be a better place without Donald Trump — a catastrophically incompetent ego maniac, sexual predator and liar. And yet I would never wish him ill, hope that he suffers pain, or dies. Trump and others like him always get what they deserve in life: personal sadness, immense pain, and spiritual emptiness. But that is their karma and none of my business. Those who wish to inflict suffering onto others or take pleasure from it in the name of some greater moral good are simply projecting their own egos and insecurities — a hallmark of those who subscribe to identity politics and extremist ideologies. Johnstone and Sadler are involved in political movements that require a total dehumanization of “the other” — a particularly bizarre quirk for Johnstone’s purported peace loving ideology that admonishes everyone else for doing just that. Sadler at least is ideologically consistent.
I have little doubt that John McCain believed he was always acting in the best interests of his country, just as other military men have throughout history. McCain is no chicken hawk — he has seen war up close and knows what it means to send young men into battle. I do not believe he supported war because he wanted to see innocent people die or children suffer. While people like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler reveled in slaughtering innocent people, using rape as a tool of subjugation, and torture, John McCain did not, and always thought he was fighting for the greater good. I believe he was severely misguided and always fought with all my might to keep him out of office, but intent is always key when taking the moral measure of another person or movement. The Allies killed millions of Germans to win World War II, yet no one believes they are morally equivalent to the Nazis who killed millions in the name of a hateful, racist ideology. These distinctions matter, and only the most hardened of ideologues believe otherwise.
John McCain has done much good and much bad throughout his life, all of which will be the subject of great debate in his absence. For now, he is a sick man with a terribly sad family, and no one should take any pleasure in their suffering.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.