Ask yourself, why this extraordinary display of love, respect, admiration, and yes, veneration of John McCain on the announcement of his death?
It is true he was an authentic American hero, a military man who long suffered and ultimately prevailed for love of country. It is also true that he was a lion of the Senate, having served for decades in this once august body. Finally, it is true that though he himself admitted he was flawed, so far as we knew his character was of the highest caliber.
But the underlying explanation for America’s outpouring is the contrast between John McCain, who wanted to become president of the United States, and Donald Trump, who did become president of the United States. It is the comparison between McCain and Trump, the latter falling so strikingly far short by every measure, that is the real reason for our extreme grieving.
Whether or not you agreed with him politically, it was John McCain who represented us symbolically. At least in our mind’s eye. In our mind’s eye it was McCain, certainly not Trump, who stood for the best in us. In our mind’s eye it was McCain, certainly not Trump, who represented America’s highest ideals. In our mind’s eye it was McCain, certainly not Trump, who spent a lifetime serving his country with exceptional distinction.
In our mind’s eye it is the reputable, honorable John McCain who would be American’s chief executive, not the disreputable, dishonorable Donald Trump. So Americans grieve both for what was … and for what is.