Donald Trump and I have one thing in common: neither of us ever served in the U.S. military.
I like to think that there was a time when that fact alone would have disqualified both of us from passing judgement on a man like John McCain. If there was ever such a time, it was definitely over by the time then-candidate Donald Trump pronounced McCain "not a hero" because he was captured by the enemy. At the risk of belaboring what should be obvious to everyone (but obviously isn't), being captured is not what made John McCain a hero. What made John McCain a hero is that he stepped up to the plate in a way that neither I nor Donald Trump nor the vast majority of people will ever do. He sacrificed what could have been an easy, comfortable life and volunteered to put himself at risk, again and again, both physically and politically, to defend the country he loved from enemies foreign and domestic. For that alone he deserves every American's undying respect.
Although I am personally grateful that I was born too late to ever have to myself face being drafted into the military, I sometimes think that the elimination of compulsory service has had a corrosive effect on our society. It allows rich people to live their entire lives without ever having to sully themselves by interacting with members of the less privileged classes. The result is a warped and twisted view of patriotism and heroism, one that equates both of these with that ultimately perverted quality metric dictated by American capitalism: success. The only thing that matters is winning by whatever means necessary. You are either a winner or a loser. There are no other virtues.
John McCain showed us that there are other virtues. Civility. Bravery. The willingness to take risks and make personal sacrifices, to stand up and say, "This is wrong," even when those committing the sin are members of your own party.
Let us hope these lessons last longer than he did, otherwise we are lost.
Rest in peace, John Sidney McCain.