During the height of 2008 US presidential campaign in the United States, one of the two candidates vying for the race – John McCain – became a household name in Bangladesh for altogether a different reason, which had got nothing to do with politics. Years back Senator McCain and his wife Cindy adopted a Bangladeshi-born baby girl suffering from cleft palate. They named her Bridget. She was in her late teen then and suddenly caught in the middle of some pretty vile and hurtful things during the South Carolina primary. It was really a nasty side of politics. The McCains received a lot of phone calls made by people who had said the couple (John McCain and Cindy) should be very ashamed about her (Bridget), about the color of her skin. It was Cindy’s call to adopt Bridget when she was on a humanitarian tour to Bangladesh back in 1993. McCain just came to know it from his wife when she got back to US and said “Say hello to your new little daughter.” But it was the humane side of McCain that he strongly defended their adoption of Bridget even at the ‘political cost’ of it during the height of presidential race. In McCain own words, “We tried to ignore it and I think we shielded her from it. It’s just unfortunate that that sort of thing still exists. As you know she’s Bengali, and very dark skinned. A lot of phone calls were made by people who said we should be very ashamed about her, about the color of her skin. Thousands and thousands of calls from people to voters saying, “You know the McCains have a black baby” I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those.”
With the passing of John McCain on August 25, 2018 at the age of 81, not only Bridget and her six siblings lost a loving dad but the world lost a great American statesman who garnered equal respect from the members of the both sides of the aisle. The New Yorker staff writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells put it in simple words, “The McCain……. was a creature not just of honor but of bonhomie—the wisecracking loyal friend of Republicans and Democrats alike, from Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman to Phil Gramm and Lindsey Graham. McCain made sure that, on congressional delegations overseas, everyone dined together.” After a long battle with brain cancer, Senator John McCain has passed away, leaving behind such a rich legacy of humility, political accommodation, love and respect that the Senator’s departure made his allies and political foes rally in a rare show of unity in offering condolences on the demise of the Vietnam veteran.
President Donald Trump, who had repeatedly criticized McCain since he began his presidential campaign in 2015, tweeted his “deepest sympathies and respect” for the Republican senator’s family, while former President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the 2008 election, said in a Twitter message, “John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.” Here one can recall how kindly McCain had spoken about Obama at a fundraising dinner barely a month before the 2008 election. He had said, “My opponent (Obama) is an impressive fellow in many ways. Political opponents can have a little trouble seeing the best in each other. But I have had a few glimpses of this man at his best, and I admire his great skill, energy and determination. I can’t wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.” McCain’s widow, Cindy, wrote on Twitter, “I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”
McCain was first diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive cancer that begins within the brain, in July 2017. His family gathered at his Arizona ranch, to spend some of McCain’s last days together. A New York Times report said, on August 24, 2018, McCain revealed that he decided to no longer be treated for the disease and just live out his final days in peace. With the announcement, his family released a statement to the press that reads, “Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: He had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma and the prognosis was serious. In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict. With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.” According to CNN, Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, commented that the McCain family has been an amazing support system for the patriarch through his journey. Prior to McCain’s death, Graham said that the love provided by the McCain children to their father has been comforting to witness.
McCain served as a US Senator from Arizona from 1987 until his death. He previously served two terms in the US House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 election that he lost to Barack Obama. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and followed his father and grandfather—both four-star admirals—into the United States Navy. During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. While on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder over Hanoi in October 1967, McCain was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics. In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won reelection five times, the last time in 2016.
Senator McCain was a loving family man. Upon return from a trip to Vietnam in 2009 McCain gave an interview to Morgan Strong of CBS’ Sixty Minutes. The interview was taken for online magazine dadmag.com, where McCain responded to a question on the up and downs of fatherhood. He said, “There are too many joys to name the ups. The only sad part about it is that children grow up. I watch my daughter turn fifteen and my son turn fourteen and I see them getting ready to leave the nest,” and then he laughed in saying, “I see their interest in me diminishing rather dramatically.” Referring to 2008 polls, McCain said that his one regret about the presidential campaign was that “it took me away from my children.” He believed that there is nothing in life like a child that one can nurture and love. “The reciprocation of that love and nurturing is a thousand times more beneficial to you than it is to the child.” n
Reaz Ahmad is Executive Editor, UNB