The word "entitled" has been thrown around a lot this primary season. Barack Obama's supporters perceive Hillary Clinton as feeling she's entitled to the presidency. Hillary Clinton's supporters find Barack Obama "arrogant" and think HE feels entitled to the presidency.
But is there a candidate with a bigger sense of entitlement than John McCain? In media circles, the mere mention of McCain must be accompanied by "war hero." But is he? Does even five years in a Hanoi prison, succumbing to torture and making a propaganda video for one's enemy captors, however understandable, make you a hero? Or are you just a victim, one deserving of understanding and empathy -- but not the presidency?
Or is this one of those things no one dares talk about, like the guys in the World Trade Center who were sitting at their desks having their morning coffee when a plane hit their building and immolated them, or the ones stranded on the high floors or the ones who tried to get out and just didn't make it? I know that the family of one of these guys has comforted themselves for the past seven years with the idea that their son/brother died a hero. But that isn't the case for the guys who were just unlucky enough to show up for work in the financial and real estate and other firms headquartered in the building that day.
Some of these people ARE heroes. Abraham Zelmanowitz
is a hero. He stayed behind rather than leave a quadriplegic friend to die alone. Brian Clark
is a hero. He rescued Stanley Praimnath
, a man who literally had an airplane fly into his office, simply by talking him through breaking through the wall that divided him from safety, then helped pull him through. There are no doubt many, ,many other, less celebrated stories of heroism that day from people who weren't those who were heroic by definition -- the firefighters and police who tried to get people out. But not everyone who died that day is by definition a hero.
There's no shame in being the victim of a horrific tragedy, or even of capture by the enemy while in war. I know that here in the U.S., we fancy ourselves to be lantern-jawed superheroes, and we want to believe that heroism exists in all events of adversity. The loss of a kid who was sitting in the back seat of a car when a classmate skidded on a rain-slicked road and hit a tree doesn't have to have heroically tried to get the others out of the car in order for his death to be a tragedy. A guy having his morning coffee and bagel when a plane hits his building does't have to try to get other people out for his death to be a tragedy. Why should we add the burden of trying to find heroism in the sudden death of a loved one to the shock and grief experienced by those s/he left behind? Why should we feel we have to turn everyone who is lost senselessly into Spider-Man in order to mourn them? A loss is a loss, whether the person was heroic in his/her last moments or not.
And we don't have to elevate the misfortune of enemy capture, and even the admirable feat of mere survival of an enemy prison, into a free pass to the presidency.
John Aravosis asks the question I've long wanted to but didn't dare: How does being captured by the enemy make you a military expert?
In theory, McCain's experience should make him MORE reticent to go to war, and to stay at war, without a clearly-defined mission. And yet he favors endless occupation of Iraq. He more than anyone else in politics today understands what torture does to a man -- and yet he caved to the sadist George W. Bush on torture
, obviously for purely political reasons.
John McCain can say "Country first" till the cows come home. It doesn't change the fact that this is a man who not only plays the torture card the way Hillary Clinton played the "The boys are being mean to me card", but who thinks that being captured and tortured by the enemy somehow makes you an expert on All Things Military.
There are few things more dangerous to long-term psychological health than the notion that because you endured something horrific, it means you're entitled to something. This country is full of people who have had years of therapy and gotten stuck at "It's because my father/mother never loved me and so the world owes me a living", rather than taking the next step into healing.
The only thing that should entitle John McCain to the presidency is whether he would be the best leader for the country. And in his craven capitulation to the worst elements of his party and his compromising of the very long-held positions that have led to the relentless hammering by the media of the "maverick" meme, the answer is "no." And it doesn't matter what happened to him in that Hanoi prison.
UPDATE: Wesley Clark doesn't think that getting shot down is a qualification for the presidency either:
Labels: John McCain