I've been watching the funeral for the late Senator John McCain recently and something hit me-- there really were a lot of folks who really liked, loved and respected John McCain. I am absolutely certain that there are those who despise him based totally off of politics, and you just have to accept it for what it is. But there is a side note to all of this--perhaps even a reality that we all must face. What will our legacy say about us?
I have been involved in journalism for years now and up until a little while ago, I worked for one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. I decided to leave the suitcase on the plane and come on home to Texas, the land of my birth and raise a family and jump into some new adventures both journalistic and personally. When I worked for that other news organization, I learned real quick that my job was not opine but rather report the facts as I saw them. Listen to those words very carefully, "the facts as I saw them."
Nowadays, I find myself on the computer or on my phone doing a lot of writing. I write news stories, I blog, work on social media, host podcast or radio show once in a blue moon and shoot stories that I feel like need to be covered.
I don't have image conscious managers breathing down my neck and I don't have deadlines lingering over my shoulder at every turn. But what I do have is freedom. I may not make nearly as much money and be as financially secure as my beautiful lady would often like, but I am free from the crap that comes along with being a staff journalist.
Now, you might be wondering how this all ties into Senator McCain and his passing? Well, it kind of does and kind of doesn't. But listen to this, when I die I don't want people to say of me "Well, he was an opinionated jack ass and an alright guy." In fact, when tobacco, food or bottle of pills finally do kill me, I hope people remember me as somewhat of a decent guy who left the world in a little bit better way than when he found it. I hope that they don't remember me for the job that I did, but the way that I did the job.
Recently, I went to the funeral of a family member who most would say lived a pretty damn good life. He was a paratrooper in World War II, a damn good football player, old school man of the world and a really good cook. There was the flag draped coffin and military honors, the stories of his younger days and football, and plenty of memories to boot. Funny thing was, people didn't talk about what he did, as much as how he did it. And that my friends is what living is all about.
John McCain was indeed an American hero who served his country nearly his entire life. He had a belief in what makes this country great and most of all, he had an idea of what it meant to be a good and decent human being. Isn't that what "going out in style" actually means?
As a news journalist in the newsroom, we generally talk about people going out in style. To most of us old hats it refers to the manner in which one committed suicide. When we hear of a famous person killing themselves, we generally ask ourselves "did he go out in style?" Hell, they really don't have to be famous, they could be a criminal and if they take themselves out in some dramatic way, we say they went out in style. But as I sit back and reflect on it, people like John McCain and Barbara Bush actually set the standard for the rest of us to live by when it comes to leaving this world "in style."
I love to see people who are passionate about politics. I love political debates, discussions and campaign rallies. In fact, I like it when people get fired up about ideas. But you know, I think in my more seasoned 30's, I have come to recognize that it's not so much about having an opinion as much as it is how you act on that opinion that really matters.
You can run for office and take a platform about all of these wonderful things you intend to do, but if you fail to actually act on them and do it in a classy manner, then exactly what good have you really done? None.
Does it really matter what you are for or against if nobody remembers what you actually did?
There are certain things that I take pretty seriously in life these days, certain things that I would like to be remembered for. I'd like to think that when I go out, however that maybe, that Kelly remembers me as the guy that loved her through think and thin, that little man remembers me as the kind of guy that he was proud to know, and that my family remembers me for more than just my many mistakes. I'd like to see to see more children who live in poverty have access to newspapers and magazines that cover meaningful news and not just BBQ joints and places to eat. I would like to be thought of as someone that left the world in a little better place, not just some opinionated jackass that spouted off on social media. Most of all, I'd like to be remembered as the guy who loved one woman and one little boy more that anybody else could.
So tomorrow, as we hold the formal state funeral for another American hero, perhaps we could focus more on how Senator McCain lived his life and how he served his country. Perhaps we could be the bigger person and focus on how we could make the world a better place and less on our opinions and sharing them. Maybe, just maybe we can focus on how we can become remembered more for what we want did with our time here and less about what our opinion was of things that we saw here. Just possibly, we can focus on going out with real style rather than just being an opinionated jackass.