Who are you? I've got to say that I really don't know anymore. It's kind of a strange turn of events since we went to the same public schools across the Deep South, then attended the same state colleges, cheering wildly on Saturdays for our favorite SEC teams, and spent Sunday mornings together in the same Southern Baptist pews. We even went to Training Union on Sunday nights.
Remember how our conversations always seemed to turn to politics? How we criticized Bill Clinton for playing so fast and loose with the truth? And how shamefully Democrats turned a blind eye to his fabrications and outright lies? Man, how could those Democrats sleep at night?
And what about how the guy we voted for, George W. Bush, running up the federal debt and launching ill-planned foreign adventures overseas? We swore that the next time Republicans got in power, we would pressure them to cut spending, attack the debt and put America's foreign policy on a restrained and reasonable path. After Bush, we grew enraged by President Barack Obama's efforts to reorder one-sixth of our economy on a straight party-line health-care vote. How reckless was that!
You and I always agreed that Washington Democrats and Republicans were cut from the same cloth, and that we needed to keep both sides honest. We were united by the shared belief that politicians must put country above party, right?
What happened to you?
The guys I came up with in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and northwest Florida for more than 40 years would never boo a former American prisoner of war — especially one who refused to return home until the enemy released every one of his buddies in the prison camp. Southern guys like us loved that "leave no man behind" ethos when John Wayne or Sylvester Stallone exhibited it on movie screens. So why would you even think of booing a man, now fighting for his life, who showed that true grit in real life?
But boo Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) you did, at the behest of President Trump during a rally in Alabama last week.
Mike Allen of Axios further reported this week that Trump has been "physically mocking" the thumbs-down gesture McCain used to deliver the deciding vote against the Republican health-care bill in July. Did that mocking involve an imitation of McCain's stiff arm movements? In case you haven't read a newspaper in the 45 years since we played on the same Dixie Youth Baseball team together, McCain got the hell beaten out of him by the communists who held him in the Hanoi Hilton for more than five years.
At that same time, Trump was dodging the draft by claiming that bone spurs stopped him from serving his country in uniform. And yet this crippling condition didn't stop the spoiled Ivy League student from playing football, tennis and golf. After four draft deferments, Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 on the same day 40 U.S. servicemen were killed in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, McCain continued receiving the beatings that would forever leave him incapable of lifting his arms over his head. He kept enduring torture because he refused to leave his band of brothers behind.
Do you have that kind of character? If you booed McCain at last week's rally, don't bother answering. Someone has obviously failed you in your life; you probably need to spend some time figuring out who that was. And if you still go to church, you may also want to pray for all those around you who put tribal politics ahead of basic humanity.
Then maybe you should drive home and tell your children the story of John McCain's sacrifice. If you can teach your children that lesson of heroism, there's a chance they might grow up to have more character than the president you now praise.
And perhaps there just may be hope for our country.