I had to unpack this thing because I was having a bunch of fee fees, and I couldn’t suss out why. In the wake of John McCain’s death I saw a whole mess of liberals around my age or older expressing appreciation for various things John McCain did, from his service and internment, to his various breaks with his party, to his admirable correction of a supporter telling him that Obama was a Muslim. Then I saw a wave of mostly millennials raging that people were expressing gratitude for some behaviors of a man who also did shitty things.
And I wanted to strangle the millennials a little. I think my irritation stems from three things. First, tearing someone down for expressing gratitude is gross. There’s so little that’s positive on the internet, and proudly taking a giant shit one someone saying they appreciate something is destructive.
Second, the man has been dead for like a couple days. So maybe the moment to rant about his shitty choices isn’t on the day he dies? It’s in poor taste to light a fire up the asses of his family before he’s in the ground. He’s dead and cannot hear your rage. Instead your criticism can only act on his family. There will be like infinity days after he’s buried to talk about why he was an ass. And there’s plenty of cannon fodder there. See the note at the bottom for excellent criticisms of McCain.
Third, John McCain’s death made me feel genuinely sad. But I don’t think that sadness was directly about him. His death reminded me that at one time, in the what now feels like a very distant past, I believed conservatives sincerely wanted America to succeed and only differed on how to get there. Further, I thought they accepted that I, a queer, and other people not exactly like them, could share in that success, because they valued the principles of liberty more than they were bigoted against people different from themselves.
In light of the recent past a strong argument can be made that this belief was wrong then, and that the only thing that’s changed is what’s observable vs hidden. And losing that comforting but false belief is painful. We typically believe that revealing the truth is positive, but I think it’s more like Shiva. While it does spur growth, it only does so after scorching the earth and mass destruction first.
Casualties of this truth revealed are my relationships with friends and family. And it makes reaching across this disconnection feel less and less tenable. And I know reaching across it is the only way to come to understanding. But this has eroded my faith that they can or will ever hear me.
I suspect this sadness is just beyond reach behind the gen xer’s responses to John McCain’s death. I know that’s where my sadness is coming from. It’s not really about McCain himself, but what he’d come to represent to me.
Millennials seem to regularly step on rakes when they are intellectually correct but emotionally wrong. Their criticism of McCain’s actions are correct. But slapping gen exers in the face with your truth bombs while they are mourning the loss of connection and security aren’t going to get you a medal. Let people express gratitude for the good things a flawed human did. Let McCain’s body cool before you attack his legacy. Let people have a sad. Chill the fuck out. You’re exhausting this cranky Xer.
If you want to hear what I think are the best criticisms of McCain’s actions check out this podcast. TLDL: they conclude that the worst aspect of his legacy is adding Sarah Palin to his ticket as she is a prelude to 45. Her complete lack in policy knowledge or vision for how to succeed coupled with dog-whistle resentment politics made her, not a pit bull in lipstick, but 45 in drag.