Since last weekend, the international media have been awash with varying tributes in honour of the late Senator, John McCain who passed on at the age of 81 years. While we express our deep heart condolence to the American people and the family of John McCain, who served his country and its people with all his strength, heart and mind, we however wonder why the honour being given to the late Senator after his demise, was not shown him while he was alive?
Aside the reports that US President Donald Trump, only recently announced that the White House flag will be returned to half-staff, after critics attacked his response to the death of Republican Senator John McCain, the rest of the world and American media have been pouring in their tributes, respects and condolences to honour the memory of the late American War hero. It makes one to wonder why Americans did not recognize John McCain this much when he was alive. Why wait until the man is no more before telling the whole world how a great war hero he was, and how he practically sacrificed his entire life in the service of his country?
John McCain was an American statesman politician and war hero who served as a United States Senator from Arizona from 1987 until his death. He previously served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama. McCain’s capture and imprisonment as a prisoner of War, occurred on October 26, 1967, when he was flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam as his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile. And that was the beginning of his awful ordeal as a prisoner of war. He fractured both arms and a leg when he ejected from the aircraft and nearly drowned in a lake, spent six weeks in the hospital where he received marginal care, was subjected to a program of severe torture as he was bound and beaten every two hours; and this punishment occurred at the same time that he was suffering from dysentery. Even when he was offered an early release, because his father, John S. McCain Jr. was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam Theater and the North Vietnamese wanted to appear merciful and to use the release for propaganda; John McCain however refused repatriation unless every man taken in before him was also released as well. However, further injuries brought McCain to “the point of suicide,” but his preparations were interrupted by guards. Eventually, McCain made an anti-U.S. propaganda “confession”. He had always felt that his statement was dishonorable, but as he later wrote, “I had learned what we all learned over there: every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine”.
McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years until his release on March 14, 1973. His wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head. After the war, McCain returned to the site with his wife Cindy and family on a few occasions to try to come to terms with what happened to him there during his capture. This is the same man whom many knew less about until his recent death, and every news media’s tongue has been wagging. Truth be told, the foreign media did not do enough to bring all of this to light, especially the CNN, when John McCain was campaigning for the highest seat in the US as President. If the honour being given to McCain presently was given this great man while he was alive, he might not have been denied to rule US by its citizens. The energy CNN is putting now in mourning McCain would have been more meaningful and appreciated. If people (especially Americans), knew him then like they know him now that he is no more, we are certain that the US 2008 Presidential election might have gone differently. In fact, McCain ought to have been elected by Americans as their President. But he was denied twice by Americans.
Such a man who suffered such horrendous torture for the service of his people, ought to be honoured while he was alive and not after his death – this present honour given to him is coming rather late. There is need for us to honour genuine leaders when they are alive, just like was done to Nelson Mandela of South Africa – whom was honoured and respected both in the later part of his life and after his death – by his people and the world. This culture of honouring leaders after their death, and not given them same recognition when they are alive and still serving, is absolutely bad. McCain was not recognized, honored and respected by US citizens until after his death. These tributes to McCain by the US citizens and the global media would have been more appropriate while he was still alive – because he served his country to the best of his capability.
The best honour one can give to a man is when he is still alive. The US citizens would have honoured McCain with his desire to be elected President of his country for at least to serve a tenure in office. That would have been the best tribute and honour to such a great hero who served not only his political party alone but also his country as a whole.
Zik Gbemre, JP.
National Coordinator Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC)