john mccain’s legacy of harming poc & native americans shouldn’t be overlooked

August 28, 2018
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We need to re-evaluate our tendency as a society to immediately bestow sainthood on someone who has passed away. It’s a trend that erases the real harm done by the deceased and it makes me wonder how Donald Trump will be remembered when the McDonalds cheeseburgers finally come back to haunt him. Late Senator and Vietnam war hero John McCain (R.Ariz) and Trump were not fans of each other and that would be reason enough to stan but McCain has his own questionable actions to answer for and his death does not absolve him or his memory of the harm he has done to people who do not look like him and his family.

McCain’s entire political career was built on his legacy as a Vietnam war hero. The politician started out as a Navy pilot who contributed to the carpet-bombing of the South-East Asian country. McCain became a prisoner of war after being shot down, captured and kept in Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. McCain has stated that he bears no ill-will towards the Vietnamese but the former Navy pilot was unapologetic about using a racial slur to describe the Vietnamese prison guards that tortured him. “I hate the gooks,” McCain said on a campaign bus in 2000. “I will hate them as long as I live.” McCain was an elected official and his remarks were widely spread and heavily criticized. McCain showed little remorse for the remarks, instead justifying them because he was referring to his captors, as if he wasn’t taking part in a war that had America dropping an incredible amount of bombs, altering the Vietnamese countryside forever.

As social media moves through the motions of extolling all the good that McCain was responsible for in the wake of his passing, the narrative conveniently omits cases like McCain trying to orchestrate a sale of Oak Flat, an Apache holy site located in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, to foreign mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, reported Huffington Post. “Members of the San Carlos Apache Nation know Oak Flat as Chich’il Biłdagoteel, a site where they gather food and medicinal plants and host dances and healing ceremonies.” The land also has great historical significance because it served as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Apache’s fight against the US and Mexico. Oak Flat also serves a place of remembrance for Apache leaders as well as a holy site for the people that occupy it. McCain tried to slide the sale of the land through in a bill, which is ironic considering that just 26 years earlier, McCain was one of the strongest supporters of protecting sites like Oak Flat. Huh, interesting.

Another disaster we can thank McCain for was Sarah Palin, who was arguably the beginning of the era of Trumpism. Palin was McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election against Obama/Biden and would have been the Vice President had McCain won. The thought used to be ridiculous but we’re living in a worse version of that reality right now so I guess the American people were right to avoid that then. The Gaurdian’s take on McCain’s disaster running mate describes Palin as “a person proudly ignorant, who didn’t even know what she didn’t know, something in the American psyche was tapped into. Something primal. Politics began to detoriate.” Sound familiar? McCain later said that he regretted choosing her over Joe Lieberman but if history had taken a different turn, it would have been him who subjected the American people to the wrath of power mixed with political ineptitude.

When Trump insulted McCain with his “I like people that weren’t captured” jab, it was easy to rally behind the war hero because he held the moral high ground in that situation. That being said, all the instances where McCain showed decency do not erase the times where his allegiance to his party outweighed the livelihoods of disenfranchised communities. It is a dangerous habit to rewrite history with the obituary. McCain may not be a Trump-level Republican but his tie was red all the same and his policies just as damaging to the communities that the red party just doesn’t care about.


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