Naturally, I took exception to the exceptionalism in their speeches. When they each mentioned the dignity of all human beings, without exceptions and beyond borders [!], I heard the asterisks as clearly as their words. And still I thought, “Oh yeah, this is what it feels like to take exception in a politics-as-usual sort of way.”
As for McCain himself (may God have mercy on him), I have no particular wish to lionize him as a saint or even a hero. On some things, including certain principles he is being widely praised for, he was, from a Christian standpoint, profoundly wrong. He embraced the nationalistic doctrine of American exceptionalism that is an immovable prerequisite for election to any federal-level public office (whether it be of the interventionist or isolationist variety). More specifically, he shared the idolatrously messianic, city-on-a-hill, last-best-hope, militaristic exceptionalism espoused by both of the erstwhile political rivals eulogizing him, among many others.
This is as much as I have to say about the good, the bad and the ugly of the late senator’s legacy. It’s just good to be reminded occasionally – and McCain’s death has become such an occasion – what normal politics looks and sounds like. Not idealized, not holistically principled, not perfectly harmonious – just normal.
Because the current situation is not it.