I suppose it was inevitable that political controversy would accompany the death of Senator John McCain. Even excluding the sloppy, inartful, but “why are you surprised” White House flag-lowering bit, news and social media outlets are awash in people yelling at each other over individuals’ responses to McCain’s passing.

Political gamesmanship is inevitable. Even if the vast majority of us exhibit restraint, there will always be some who fill the silence with their chatter, either because they can’t help themselves or because they see an opportunity. As they do so, they unfortunately entice us to play at their base level.

Death strikes at our core emotions. When someone passes, it’s inevitable that we personalize the event to some degree. That is where we become susceptible to the lure of controversy and clash. And, that is why it’s important to separate big-personality public figures into two aspects: the person and the politician.

We can and should mourn, without reservation, the passing of a person who served and suffered for his country, who spend a life in public service, who inspired many with his strength and conviction. We can do so while continuing to judge his beliefs, positions, policies, and political actions on their own merit and with a critical eye. His passing should not alter our judgment.

Death is inevitable, but it is still a tragedy, and no person with a soul should wish a difficult death upon another. Yet, even a tragic death should not alter the assessment of a life’s work in public service, work that affects those he served, for good or for bad.

McCain’s track record, viewed from a libertarian perspective, includes much to criticize. Decorum calls for withholding that criticism during a period of mourning, and any person with a gram of control over his emotions should be able to accomplish that without much difficulty, even when barraged by news and social media. This, of course, applies in the opposite direction as well. We are capable of refraining from hagiographic rebuttals in response to the nastiness that some have spewed. There’s plenty of time to analyze, dissect, and debate, and we do both ourselves and society a disservice when we bend another’s tragedy for momentary gain.

Manners are the lubricant of society. As Robert Heinlein observed:

A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness.

I cannot think of something more rude than stomping on the still-warm body of the newly-deceased, either for political gain or in response to others’ selfish leveraging. We needn’t remain entirely silent, though. We can speak well of the man without betraying our beliefs regarding the politician, and we can just shut up about our opinions regarding his politics. One is personal, the other is dispassionate.

I offer my condolences to the family of John McCain, and I tip my hat to his lifetime of service and sacrifice to the nation. As to his political history? Another day.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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