In Memoriam: John McCain

BY JACK MORGENSTEIN

Senator John McCain died of a brain tumor at the age of 81 on August 25, 2018. Looking back on his life, many will recall a seasoned hero and Vietnam veteran who served our country for 23 years, or perhaps a six-term conservative “maverick” from Arizona. But the true John McCain was much more than that; he was a family man with a loving wife and seven children, a man whose passion for life earned him respect across party lines. To understand the international respect for McCain, one must look at the extraordinary life of a man who was deeply loyal to his country and beliefs. When John McCain followed in his four-star Admiral father and grandfather’s footsteps and enrolled at the Naval Academy in 1954, he never could have known the impact he would have on our country and the world throughout his long military and political career. At the Naval Academy John McCain earned the respect of his classmates, not through his stellar academics (he graduated 894th out of 899) or familial connections, but through his sense of duty and leadership.

After graduation, John McCain was commissioned by the Navy to be a naval aviator. Although McCain would eventually rise to the rank of captain, it wasn’t due to any natural talent passed on from his veteran father and grandfather; during his training as a pilot, he crashed two of his flight missions and collided with a power line during a third. An instructor rated him as “sub-par,” but McCain refused to let this get in his way; less than a year later he was marked as a “good flier.” In the Vietnam War McCain was assigned to Operation Rolling Thunder. (His deep-rooted sense of duty compelled him to specifically request a combat assignment.) During the infamous fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal, where McCain was stationed, he put himself in harm’s way and saved the lives of multiple fellow pilots.

On John McCain’s twenty-third bombing mission, he was shot down by North Vietnamese troops and placed in Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous P.O.W. camp that became known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Even with a fractured arm, a bayonet wound, and a crushed left shoulder, he received no medical attention and was beaten and interrogated daily. John McCain’s patriotism (and quick-thinking) showed when, instead of telling the North Vietnamese the names of his fellow pilots, he gave the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. In 1968, a prison doctor told John that his wounds were fatal and that he had less than a week to live. He not only lived but helped other prisoners, even though this brought the risk of more beatings. In early 1969, when the Vietnamese learned his father was the commander of U.S. Vietnamese forces, John McCain was offered release, but he refused, requesting that every soldier before him be freed first. The torture inflicted on McCain would leave him unable to lift his arms above his head for the rest of his adult life. But actions like these, putting the lives of other Americans before his own, are what make John McCain an American hero. He embodied his belief that “it is your character, and your character alone that will make your life happy or unhappy.”

Despite an offer to be honorably discharged from the Navy, McCain continued to serve the military until 1981, when he decided he could do more good from the Senate. McCain’s military decorations and awards included the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Prisoner of War Medal.

McCain’s first foray into public office was a race for the House of Representatives seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He narrowly won the seat and was reelected in 1984. With rising ambitions, McCain ran for and won a Senate seat in 1986. Although he suffered greatly as a prisoner in Vietnam, McCain visited multiple times, advocating for peaceful relations with Vietnam. In his own words, “no just cause is futile, even if it’s lost, it makes the future better than the past.” McCain was never afraid to speak his beliefs—even when it went against the party line, such as when he openly opposed the US’s military involvement in Lebanon in the mid 1980’s. This willingness to act on his beliefs and go against his party throughout the 90’s and beyond earned the nickname “maverick.” McCain had a deep desire to make the world a better place, which inspired him to run for President in both 2000 and 2008. Despite being political adversaries, McCain earned not only the respect, but the friendship of the these two eventual presidents due to his passionate, thoughtful nature.

John McCain went on to serve six consecutive terms in the Senate before his death. During that time, his bipartisan “Gang of 14” in Congress solved a crisis over judicial nominations, and he became chairman of the Senate’s Armed Service Committee. While his congressional accomplishments were incredible, it was his clear passion for life and willingness to stand up for his beliefs, no matter the cost, that earned him the respect of his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. At McCain’s funeral in 2018, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama delivered eulogies, and former President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as numerous other public figures, were in attendance. John McCain was an American hero whose accomplishments weren’t measured in laws but in people he helped and lives he touched. Perhaps a quote from the dearly departed senator himself sums his life best: “courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears.”

 

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Straight Actors, Gay Roles

BY JONAH LAWSON

For the past decade, straight actors in Hollywood have pursued LGBT roles to prove that they can play a character whose life experiences have been greatly different from their own. From Armie Hammer to Cate Blanchett, many have gone through this rite of passage, and their fans have applauded them, calling them heroes of tolerance and progress. At first, this was wonderful; the actors who took on these roles dealt with them seriously and were almost always important advocates for the LGBT community. Timothée Chalamet, who stars in Call Me By Your Name, has donated to the LGBT center in New York, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars in Brokeback Mountain, donates to LGBT charity GLAAD. Along with their charity work, these established stars can bring lots of attention to LGBT movies, thereby raising awareness of different issues that many would not hear about otherwise.  Eddie Redmayne did this when he played one of the first trans people to undergo a sex change in The Danish Girl.

Although I can’t imagine Modern Family without Eric Stonestreet (who plays Cam), straight actors need to allow for greater opportunity for LGBT actors. According to LGBT magazine The Advocate, 52 straight people have received Oscar nominations for gay roles, and actors such as Sean Penn for Milk and Tom Hanks for Philadelphia have taken home the award for best actor, while no openly gay man has ever taken home the award. The work these actors have done to raise awareness is greatly appreciated, and of course straight actors can certainly play an LGBT role every once in a while, but it is also extremely important that the people representing the LGBT community on television are themselves LGBT, so the youth in that community can have role models who share their experiences.

Why You Should Take a Language in High School

BY JACK MORGENSTEIN

We’ve all been in the position before of selecting classes for our next semester. Odds are, if you’re anything like me, you find the sheer number of courses overwhelming. Most colleges require two language credits, but is there any other benefit to filling up one of your valuable class slots with a higher-level language course?

The answer is a resounding yes—and not for the reasons you may think. The most valuable part of taking a language in high school is not at all about actually speaking the language. According to President Lyndon B. Johnson, “If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.” This concept is more relevant today than ever before, as we live in a highly interconnected global community where misunderstandings between business and political leaders have cascading effects on the global stage. Mutual understanding could be the difference between world peace and nuclear destruction. Learning another language has given me a newfound appreciation for many diverse cultures. An integral part of any good language course is learning about the associated culture. Long after all the Spanish I’ve learned has left my mind, I’ll still remember singing in Sra. BA’s room and learning traditional Spanish legends in Sra. Stewart’s room. I have gained a respect for other cultures I could never have otherwise gotten here in suburbia. This respect leads to mutual understanding, which can create connections between all of us and lead the way to peace on a wide scale and better interpersonal skills in everyday life.

Whether or not college is in the future, taking a world language is an important step to becoming not only a global citizen but a better person by informing conceptions you may have about others and creating respect. The next time you’re picking classes, consider checking the box for a language.

A Gross Overstepping of Boundaries

BY MATTHEW SHORB

Following a closed door meeting between Trump and Putin during the recent Helsinki summit, many liberals are calling on Marina Gross, Trump’s interpreter, to reveal what occurred in that confidential meeting. Such demands are uncalled for and dangerous to the jobs of our interpreters and American diplomatic relations.

Interpreters are hired not only for their linguistic abilities, but also for their ability to keep important matters and discussions private. As Yuliya Tsaplina, a Russian interpreter, states, “We are only as valuable as we can interpret faithfully, accurately, and keep things in confidence.” Demands for information, such as a motion from Adam Schiff — head Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — to subpoena Ms. Gross, show a distinct lack of respect and consideration for the code of ethics and laws of labor by which interpreters function. We all are curious as to what was discussed between Putin and Trump, but liberals are targeting an innocent bystander, Ms. Gross, for simply doing her job; if information about this meeting is to be revealed, it should done by Trump himself, rather than dragging Marina Gross in front of a congressional committee and soiling the interpreting profession she has worked in for decades.

Subpoenaing Ms. Gross for information would also have unintended negative effects on our relationships with other countries. When discussing important matters and creating solutions, foreign leaders must be able to trust that ideas and discussions are kept private, and that interpreters will not disclose the content of these critical meetings America has with other foreign powers. If Ms. Gross is made to reveal the contents of Putin and Trump’s discussion, it will set a precedent for all American foreign discussions that we can not be trusted to keep things confidential. If, after every meeting a president has with another foreign leader, the discussion is blasted from the rooftops, why would other countries continue to discuss private and important matters with us? It is similar to how we Americans depend on our doctors to keep our medical ailments and confidential. If I, as a doctor, proclaimed your private personal health issues to the world, you would rightfully decide not to come to me with any other issues you might have in the future. In much the same way, foreign countries must be able to depend on the United States to keep private issues undisclosed, and if we demand information from our interpreters, this vow of privacy can not be maintained.

The pressure on Marina Gross to reveal confidential discussions reveals a dangerous precedent in the political search for information. As Trump’s presidency continues, the left continues to desperately search for evidence showing collusion between the Trump team and Russia. The pursuit of said evidence is not the problem: if information exists that shows undeniable collusion, it undoubtedly must be brought to light. The left chooses to pursue dirt on Trump recklessly, even at the cost of interpreters’ reputation and professional standing. The relentless search for scandal is not a partisan problem, however: during the 2016 presidential election, many Republicans did not care about the origins of leaks regarding Hillary Clinton, just so long as “Crooked Hillary” would appear corrupt. Did these Republicans care that these leaks came from Russian hackers and shady figures such as Julian Assange? Hardly.

In examining the lunacy of pressing Ms. Gross to divulge private foreign affairs, it becomes clear that America’s political divisions and quarrels continue without regard for how information is gathered. If we ever hope to have a country united in the pursuit of truth and facts, we must uncover conspiracies through bipartisan support and measured investigation. Trump may be wrong in keeping his Putin meeting confidential, but that does not make it right to betray the trust and ethics of others to reveal the information. If we as a country wish to reveal and remove corruption in our government and our president, we must do it together. Otherwise, our differences and disagreements are merely accentuated by the rash actions we take to bolster our own arguments.