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2018-08-30 / Voices

John McCain - American Hero & Native Champion - Passes


I flew the American flag today. I haven’t done that in quite a while.

Not because of who’s sitting in the White House. I’ve been an independent since 1980.

Or not just because of who’s occupying the Oval Office. “Occupying” because, as Webster’s notes, the word means “to take up (a place or extent) in space.” And that’s really all the poster child for the powerbroker and corporate set does, takes up space.

I haven’t flown the flag because of my continued dissatisfaction with the state of the country. It started when Democrats didn’t have the courage to stand up to the conservative right against a post 9/11 war, and then wars, that should never have occurred, more concerned about their reelections than the lives of our young men and women.

It continued as the general populous was so easily swayed to accept fear as the order of the day. No matter the source. No matter which side of the aisle.

Even Bush’s departure and Obama’s arrival didn’t cause a radical change in the political status quo, though a black man in the “white” house on Pennsylvania Avenue did cause racists to begin rearing their vile and nasty heads from beneath the rocks they’d slithered under years before.

It was reinforced when the Democratic Party corrupted the nomination process at their own convention by ignoring an aging Jewish man whose presidential campaign was making history in order to throw, as in “pay the boxer to take a fall,” the race to the elitist favorite. That would be the elite of the left. Yes, Virginia they do exist.

Then when 90 million registered voters failed to cast their ballots, allowing a loud-mouth, narcissistic bully to assume the leadership role of this country, I shook my head in disbelief at the level of ignorance and gullibility the masses had dropped to and moved my flag to the back of the closet.

“It will be a while,” I thought, “before it’s unfurled by a Northern Plains breeze.”

Then John McCain, U.S. Navy flier, Vietnam veteran and outspoken maverick of the Republican party, died. I brought out the flag again in his honor.

Like millions in this country and around the world, I admired John McCain. Growing up in a family of veterans, though not one as illustrious as the admiral’s son, I understood his natural gravitation toward a military career and his dedication to his country. There was even a time when I was being lined up for entry to Annapolis, with plans to transfer to the Marine Corps on graduation.

Of course, I initially knew McCain from his years as a Prisoner of War. It’s an experience that scarred him for life, as it did all who endured it. But McCain’s time at “The Hanoi Hilton” put the issue of those usually forgotten men on the front page of our cultural psyche and has kept it there ever since.

When I moved from studying about Native Americans to writing about them, I was pleased to see McCain as one of the few elected leaders on either side of the aisle who spoke out in support of this country’s First People. He wasn’t always on the right side and, in later years, sometimes waned. But he did place his brash, direct, outspoken presence in their corner on many occasions and was the longest current serving member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

And though his constituency was in Arizona, I’ve heard more than one Lakota over the years, frequently veterans, of which there are so many, give a nod of praise to the “akicita” (warrior) from the Southwest, for at least trying to “get it.”

As for the draft-dodger in the White House who doesn’t consider McCain a hero “because he was caught,” the man did a bit more than that, having received the Silver Star, 2 Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross. 3 Bronze Stars, 2 Purple Hearts and 2 Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals.

Still, you can’t expect much from a political Barnum who’s ignorant of history and protocol.

While the flag at the White House flies at fullstaff less than 2 days after his passing, I believe I’ll be placing mine out again to honor John McCain, his fighting spirit, his tenacity and his willingness to put what he believed was right over his party’s agenda.

That’s something leaders on both side of the aisle can aspire to, but none have.

Time for a new maverick. Who’s stepping up?

Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. His stories can be heard on National Public Radio. Jim can be reached at

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