Peter Cavanaugh

Scope of funerals befit their stature

Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at Sen. John McCain’s memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, Sept. 1, 2018. McCain received a full-fledged Washington send-off on Saturday as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama led an invitation-only service here.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks at Sen. John McCain’s memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, Sept. 1, 2018. McCain received a full-fledged Washington send-off on Saturday as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama led an invitation-only service here. New York Times

Those sure were fancy funerals.

The departed said what they wanted.

Folks came through.

Aretha’s was rockin’ – John’s was righteous.

Aretha Franklin was sent to Heaven with a spectacular eight-hour goodbye at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. It was a star-studded service from start to finish with former President Bill Clinton, Stevie Wonder, Jesse Jackson, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Faith Hill and several dozen other prominent dignitaries and entertainers. Several dozen. Eight hours. No wonder folks were jumping up and down.

Sen. John McCain’s Saturday service at Washington’s National Cathedral was equally powerful, but more traditionally solemn as the senator wished. The speakers John chose were outstanding, concluding with the two men who defeated him when he ran for President – George W. Bush and Barack Obama. They were each magnificent as they eloquently expressed their respect for an American hero. John McCain was unique and unequaled in his time – a man of baffling complexity, both sinner and saint.

Dave Marsh is an old friend. Dave helped found “Creem” magazine back in the ’60s, was an editor at Rolling Stone, has written dozens of books (including Bruce Springsteen’s official biography) and has gone on to become one of America’s most highly regarded music critics – if not most beloved.

When I presented my thoughts about Senator McCain’s passing, Dave sent me this note laced with typical restraint – “I love your blog. But John McCain was a despicable son of a bitch.” Dave then pointed out a number of concerns, not the least of which being that Hanoi offered ONLY (Dave’s emphasis) civilian targets for McCain’s bombs, that his campaign against Obama was fraught with racial overtones, particularly from Joe Lieberman “so thinly veiled they would have made George Wallace blush” and that Dave is not at all impressed “McCain made some glancing gestures at opposing the Doofus-in-Chief.”

I promptly wrote back, “Well, there’s that.”

What Dave didn’t mention was that Senator McCain bravely joined forces with fellow Vietnam vet, Sen. John Kerry, in re-establishing diplomatic relations with Hanoi in 1995 – an extended effort aimed at full reconciliation with a former enemy. Today Kerry writes, “John McCain showed all of us how to bridge the divide between a protestor and a POW. McCain was … grace personified.”

We have these comments from the Vietnamese:

“I know McCain made a great contribution to normalize the relations and was a good friend of Vietnam.” – Tran Hoan, owner of a Ginseng company in Kon Tum.

“The news of his death is sad for the Vietnamese people” – Nguyen Van Than, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Hanoi.

“”He was an American citizen, a person in a war system, and he had to implement his citizenship’s obligation to the country.” – Vietnamese parliamentarian Duong Trung Quoc.

Here’s a guy who rescued The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) by a single vote, yet cast his “YES” for the Republican “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” making the really rich much, much richer. The only long-term “jobs” it created was hiring more accountants to count their cash. “Can we buy that new Lamborghini this morning or must we wait till noon? Does it come in Kardashian Karmel? May I steer it from home?”

McCain didn’t invite former running mate Sarah Palin to his funeral, but downed vodka shots with Hillary Clinton like the sailor he was.

The senator had raging Irish temper, but a soft Irish soul – the might of a warrior, but the mind of a poet.

John McCain. A study in blessed contradiction.

Saint and sinner.

Towering in departure.

Gone home.

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