As humanity tries to come to terms with the idea of Donald Trump being at the helm of the United States – the only superpower – the memorial service for Republican Senator John McCain in Washington on Saturday served as a reminder to the troubled planet that the eccentric president does not express modern America.
Trump obviously represents a significant portion of the country’s voters, particularly among the lower social strata, but in no way does he express the prevailing mentality of the deeply divided Republicans, nor, of course, of the majority of the population.
Political leaders and regular citizens all over the world are worried and frustrated by the US president’s often erratic positions on a wide range of issues, from geopolitics to economic and social affairs. In Europe, this concern is fast turning to exasperation, as Trump treats the bloc – and says so in no uncertain terms – almost as a “foe.”
Trump notwithstanding, the tributes to McCain by two former presidents who were also his rivals – one, George W. Bush, for the Republican presidential nomination, and the other, Barack Obama, for the presidency itself – sent out powerful hope-filled messages, as they spoke of the late senator’s virtues of respect, tolerance and understanding.
“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” his daughter, Meghan McCain, said in a speech that was seen as a rebuke to Trump and his “Make America Great Again” motto while addressing some 3,000 guests who had gathered at Washington National Cathedral to pay their respects to the former prisoner of war, senator and presidential candidate.
“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness – the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served,” she said, adding: “The America of John McCain is generous and welcoming and bold. She is resourceful and confident and secure. She meets her responsibilities. She speaks quietly because she is strong. America does not boast because she has no need.”
Anyone watching domestic developments and the public dialogue on the other side of the Atlantic can see that the flame of the America McCain’s daughter so eloquently spoke of – which despite its many shortcomings was upheld as the leader of the liberal West – is still burning.