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Viewpoint: Who will be the next John McCain?

By Kate Heywood, city of Hudson resident

I spent much of Saturday watching clips from the memorials for Sen. John McCain. As I wiped away tears, one question kept sounding in my mind: Who will be the next John McCain?

I've been wondering, since hearing of his passing and seeing the outpouring from people across the political spectrum and across the globe, just what it was about him that people loved and admired so much. I think there were a lot of things. Certainly honor, decency and courage. The idea of dedicating your life to a cause greater than yourself. And it should be instructional to us that they weren't quaint notions on a dusty shelf to McCain. He lived them each and every day.

But what was that greater cause toward which he dedicated his life?

America.

That shining city on a hill. An unequalled force for decency and freedom in the world. Those ideals never rang hollow for McCain. He believed in this country and her place in the world. He believed in her people That there was nothing we couldn't accomplish. Together. As Americans.

This kind of optimism and belief is infectious. It has and should light a fire in us. That it's okay to love America and believe in what she stands for. And not the kind of empty patriotism that makes hollow demands to score political points. But the kind that dedicates itself to our ideals. Not simply when it's easy, but particularly when it's hard.

Some have said that those who believe in the shining city on a hill are blind to the problems of America. Yet there again, McCain, the great maverick dissenter, should be our example. His was an optimism rooted in curiosity and reality. And if ever we, as Americans, from presidents on down, fell short of his cherished American ideals, he was the first to lodge a very vocal protest.

Yes, admit to our failings. Yes, dissent. Yes, disagree. But just as McCain called for his colleagues to return to the ideal of disagreeing without being disagreeable, so should we.

I wonder when it was we forgot how to be big-hearted. When we forgot how to treat each other with respect and decency. When cynicism and tribalism took the day. When our political discourse dissolved into strident echo-chambers. When we became so petty and small?

That is not America.

We are bigger than that. Greater than that. Called to more than that. If McCain taught us anything, it should be that what America stands for is not moldering in the patina of history. It's as alive and important today as it was in the beginning. It's good and noble and worthy. A just cause towards which we should rededicate ourselves.

Some have mourned this is the end of an era. But McCain himself would scoff at the notion that he was the cause. Because that's what we must believe if his passing meant those values passed from the earth with him. There are many who believe and behave as he did, from every walk of life and everywhere on the political spectrum. It's up to us now to find and emulate them.

And if any should have cause to believe that the light of America's liberty and decency no longer has an important place, just ask those in any corner of the world who are languishing today imprisoned in oppression. Ask the dreamers, the strivers, the workers waiting respectfully and doggedly in lines of bureaucratic morass just for a chance, one precious chance, to experience what sadly far too many of us take for granted today—the fundamental freedom and decency and optimism that is America.

So I ask again: Who will be the next John McCain? Where will he or she come from? And when? For we need her now ... more than ever.

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