Senator John McCain’s funeral is one of those public, universal events of history I will always remember.
Just as, when I was a child, I remember watching JFK’s. The way I remember the moment I learned of the deaths of MLK and RFK. Of Reagan being shot. The Challenger exploding. The Twin Towers crumbling before my eyes.
All are historical, cultural and emotional touch points we commonly share. All have shaped us someway in how we feel about either our country, ourselves, or both.
McCain’s funeral made me yearn for the functioning of the U.S. government in a way I don’t know we ever will again.
Not that we haven’t always been a country with great divides. But the bigger ideals on which we agreed managed to transcend them, even following a brutal, bloody civil war.
As a country, we were all finally able to agree that slavery of other human beings was morally bankrupt; that women were people with agency and the right to enfranchisement; that when the entire economy crashes, we can develop public programs that return us to prosperity.
We were able to band together to fight an evil that exterminated six million people because they were Jewish and overcome an imperialism that wanted to bomb us into pieces. In that unison, we went forward to continue fighting for civil freedoms for all citizens, an end to segregation, the grant of equal voting rights, a race to the moon and more.
We have reached for the stars and seen farther into space than we ever dreamed. We have traced our DNA ladder in microscopic manner to come up with ingenious treatments for once fatal disease.
But we have also seen greed, far-flung war in places where perhaps we should not have been, recession, failed housing markets and retirement outcomes poorer than we expected. We still have homeless sleeping in our streets, and people trapped into paying for medical insurance that doesn’t begin to cover all of their need, especially in times of great ill-health.
Recently we have seen our country ban people based on their country of origin and separate asylum seeking families, confining children to cages as if they were animals in a zoo.
We have heard rhetoric from politicians more denigrating, mean-spirited and belittling than it has ever been. We have been failed by those holding the highest offices of government.
We have been cyber attacked by another sovereign country that would – in its deeply cynical governance – be pleased to see our own fail so that it can be more influential and significant in the world.
We have started being unkind to each other based on our political identification. With multiple social platforms, we have found increasingly vitriolic ways to do so.
Like McCain himself, our own country is both grand and flawed.
So it is up to each of us as citizens to acknowledge those flaws, work to overcome them, and help our country be grander still.
Because Meghan McCain was right today when she said America has always been great. Not perfect. But great.
And we have always been greatest when we work together to overcome our flaws.