[T]hey shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun…
In her eulogy (Town & Country), a visibly grieving Meghan McCain spoke of the irreplaceable loss the passing of her father left in her life. She told the vast audience gathered in Washington, DC’s National Cathedral:
My father is gone, John Sidney McCain III was many things. He was a sailor, he was an aviator, he was a husband, he was a warrior, he was a prisoner, he was a hero, he was a congressman, he was a senator, he was nominee for President of the United States. These are all of the titles and roles of a life that’s been well lived. They’re not the greatest of his titles nor the most important of his roles.
Had Ms. McCain left it at that, she would have paid fitting tribute to the memory of her father. She would have illuminated his legacy of a lifetime of service to the country. But there was more. She continued:
He was a great man. We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.
Those 42 words were among the most powerful spoken at Senator McCain’s funeral. Those words stood out among the many tributes that were paid to the late American hero, including those proclaimed by two former American Presidents—George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Ms. McCain’s words recalled the best of what made the United States a free nation and then a great one. They hearkened back to a time when virtue mattered, courage had worth, truth guided the nation, the pursuit of life was about things that were larger than oneself, and greatness was defined by the enduring contribution one left to his or her country. Today, moral relativism reigns in much of Washington and among those who empower the historically amoral Trump Administration, courage is readily dismissed, truth is mocked as not being truth, individuals live only for themselves and their own personal enrichment, and greatness has been perverted into a measure of how much pain one has inflicted on one’s political opponents.
The reaction from this contemporary Washington and its enablers came swiftly. Like a flock of crazed Harpies, amoral Washington and those who abet it, descended on Twitter and other Social Media sites to attack Meghan McCain. One mad individual even posted an image that appeared to be a threat to shoot a mourning Ms. McCain (Azcentral.com).
These attacks came as no surprise. Had there been no attacks, that would have been a monumental surprise.
Those attacks represent the cries of a brutish crowd that champions the division of Americans based on appeals to “blood and soil,” hails the forcible separation of children from undocumented immigrant parents as ‘enforcing the law,’ rationalizes, if not welcomes, the appeasement of dictators including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un, advocates the estrangement from NATO allies, and embraces a sharp turn to protectionism in combination with increased state intervention in the economy.
At the service, Ms. McCain’s eulogy was met by applause from the 4,000 persons gathered at the National Cathedral. That applause transcended partisan divisions. That applause demonstrated that genuine leaders, their example, and those who proclaim their greatness can unify people regardless of race, religion, and political ideology. The applause highlighted the ties that bind America’s diverse peoples into a single American people.
Those who attacked Ms. McCain hated her for this reality. That a historically weak, compromised, and ineffective President divides the nation like none before him does not mean that actual leaders cannot unify the nation. They have done so regardless of their political party. They still can do so.
Her critics also understood that Ms. McCain was speaking of an America that they not only reject, but also want to bury into the past. Forever. Their hollow appeal, “Make America Great Again,” is not about lifting the nation to new heights. It is about turning back the clock to the intolerant nativist “Know Nothing” era of the 1850s and short-sighted “America First” period of the 1940s.
Most of all, Ms. McCain’s critics understand that their shallow ethno-nationalist populism is morally and intellectually bankrupt. It has no redeeming value. It solves no problems. It only makes things worse. Moreover, it is an alien ideology that is at odds with the principles on which the nation was founded, the ideals toward which it has striven, and the incredible role the nation has played as a champion of human liberty and dignity on the world stage.
On Saturday, that crowd of armchair and Internet critics erupted into a great “wailing and gnashing of teeth” at Ms. McCain’s eloquent and heartfelt words. Despite all the noise of their vile screaming, shrieking, and yelling, there was a far bigger story. From Meghan McCain’s words, “the righteous” shined “forth as the sun.” None of her critics can erase that glorious moment.
She returned the focus to the truth about the United States. The United States has never ceased being great. It still possesses a vast population of good people. So long as that remains true, the nation will not only pass through its current dark moment in history—a sort of historical eclipse—but will also soar to even greater heights in the future.