Sunset Over Sedona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek - Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock Above Oak Creek – Sedona, Arizona

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s, I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”   An excerpt from John McCain’s 2008 Republican National Convention speech.

Beyond the backyard, childhood fantasies inspired by those tall in the saddle gents that dominated the small screen of my family’s television set on most Saturday afternoons, I was always a bit leery of putting too much stock in the idea of there being such a thing as a true American hero. While I was that typical male child that always appreciated a slow drawl and a fast gun, even then I sensed the danger of letting ones view of reality being shaped too much by the painted sunsets, fan assisted tumbleweeds, and cattle town facades of Southern California. And as to those towering figures that stood at the podium, the pulpit, or at home plate – I realized that success and failure was only a matter of a bad call or the next swing of the bat. So my handful of heroes could almost fit into the hand of a newborn. But among that very short list will always appear the name of Senator John McCain!

John McCain and Ted KennedyWhile countless others have experienced the almost unimaginable physical and psychological pain endured by John McCain while held in captivity, few could forgive their captors–and even fewer would promote reconciliation and a working relationship with their former enemies. But this was a profound human being whose reach could always extend across the aisle, and when necessary for the sake and wellbeing of all–that reach would cross oceans. In triumph and in tragedy he always maintained his sense of purpose and his unique sense of humor. And he never wavered in his service to both country and humanity. I feel very blessed to have stood under some of those same western sunsets that the senator from Arizona so loved. And I am so very grateful to live in a nation that could give rise to the likes of a John Sydney McCain!

Prior to their parting repast at the City Tavern, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 gathered one last time at the Philadelphia Statehouse to sign the document that would serve as the blueprint for our attempt at democratic governance. Among those early American founding mavericks was the esteemed Doctor Benjamin Franklin. Before taking his leave, he made the following observation about the carving of the sun that had adorned the back of the chair at which George Washington had sat while presiding over the assembled body during the nearly four months of contentious debate:

The Rising Sun Chair

 “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

The sun will once again rise above Sedona, and John McCain will continue to serve this country in death as he did in life. His ghost will haunt those who merit a haunting–and his spirit will inspire those who are worthy of inspiration.

Commander John Sidney McCain

 

 

To this very honorable statesman and sailor we bid fair winds and following seas!

 

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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The Lion In Summer

Hammersmith Farm - Photo By: Susan Sipprelle

For the second time now I’ve watched an American flag fly at half-mast over the waters of Newport, Rhode Island marking the passing of yet  another member of the Kennedy family. On a July afternoon ten years earlier, my wife and I looked on from the deck of the Rum Runner as Hugh D. Auchincloss III, the stepbrother of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, lowered the flag at his property at Hammersmith Farm. It had been confirmed earlier that day that all souls on board the Piper Saratoga piloted by John Kennedy Jr. had gone down in the Atlantic off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Now on this perfect August morning as I stood near the lowered colors at Newport’s Easton’s Beach, my thoughts turned to the life and legacy of the last lion of the U.S. Senate.

Easton's Beach - Middletown, RI

Even in this New England community that continues to celebrate its strong ties to the Camelot era of the political dynasty, the Kennedy name evokes strong emotions.  From bootleggers to the beatified, the family is either vilified or venerated. And Ted, as much as any one of his bloodline, fulfilled our need to imbue our public figures with those qualities that allow us to imagine them as devils or angels – depending upon one’s particular political persuasion.

By my take, based upon the hours of conversations and comments overheard at the bar at Flo’s Clam Shack in Middletown, RI on the day after his death, Senator Edward Moore Kennedy will be remembered as the greatest legislator and statesman of the last fifty years, or just another fortunate son of privledge that was not held accountable for his sins of the past. The immutable forces that apply to human nature dictate that the truth, as always, is somewhere close to the middle of our perception and observations.

JFK at Hammersmith Farms - National Archives, Public Domain

It is interesting to note though, that his  longevity in the senate may have come about as a result of his greatest failing. The tradgedy at Chappaquiddick rendered him impotent as his brother’s  heir apparent to the White House; but the citizens of Massachusetts entrusted him with a reign that would allow him to develop his legislative prowess.

Even as I write this piece I find myself at great odds about my own  feelings toward the late senator. Anytime one truly makes an effort to consider and delve into the lives of those that we’ve elevated beyond the status of  being human, we leave ourselves open to the probability of internal conflict  and disappointment. With the possible exception of  “His Excellency” George Washington, all those that were worth their salt as leaders seemed to have been equally proportioned with the potential to be a saint or a scoundrel on any given day.

So it is probably best that we continue to honor, commerorate and give thanks to those that have dedicated their lives to serving this nation, and allow providence to sort out those flaws that are inherent  in all of us.

Ted Kennedy - Congressional Photo, Public Domain

 

Give praise to the regal lion – just remember that he is still  a lion!

Thanks to Susan Sipprelle for her photo of Hammersmith Farm.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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