By Anh Le
Like millions of Americans, I honor and pay my respect to Senator John McCain.
I am a Vietnamese. I am a Vietnamese American.
My family and I arrived in this country as immigrants. We have been richly blessed with the wonderful gifts and opportunities this country offers. The American people are a decent, good hearted, and generous people.
Like Senator McCain, both my parents suffered from cancer. I know what it is like to have my loved ones struck with cancer.
Like Senator McCain, both my parents experienced war.
During the French-Indochina War, my father was captured and imprisoned by the French. For two years, he was tortured, beaten, and interrogated by the French. The French applied electricity to his body and genitals in their torture. My father's sin, in the eyes of the French, was that he was a Vietnamese, and a highly educated one.
My mother was raped during the French-Indochina War.
Yet, through their strong human spirit and endurance, my parents survived.
During the Viet Nam War, my parents and our family prayed daily for peace. We prayed for the dropping of bombs over Viet Nam to cease. We prayed for the slaughter and killing of Vietnamese babies, children, women, and men to end. We prayed for the war to end.
We prayed for my grandparents, uncles, and aunts in Viet Nam. My mother did not get to see her parents and siblings for decades because of the war.
When the Viet Nam War ended on April 30, 1975, peace finally arrived in my native country, Viet Nam, "Nuoc Me De," the Land of my Birth.
I thank and am deeply grateful to Senator McCain for his role in the process of healing after the end of the War in Viet Nam for both the people of Viet Nam and the people of the United States.
Vietnamese and Americans alike are deeply grateful for his courage and his leadership in calling for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and the U.S. May Viet Nam and the United States and our peoples enjoy enduring friendship. And may the Peace which arrived in Viet Nam for the Vietnamese people 43 years ago be everlasting.
I read Senator McCain's books, "Restless Wave," as well as "Character Is Destiny" and "Faith of My Fathers."
I am heartened by Senator McCain's call, in his book "Restless Wave," for our nation to return to civility, decency, and respect in how it conducts its discourse on the issues that confront our country. Respect, civility, and decency, not only in the halls of Congress, the White House, and government at the national, state, and local levels, but also among fellow Americans regardless of political party affiliation or personal perspective, racial or ethnic background, skin color, or socio-economic background.
I remember that during the 2008 presidential campaign, at a town hall meeting, when a Caucasian woman expressed her fear that Mr. Obama was "an Arab," and a Caucasian man said he was afraid for our country because of Senator McCain's opponent in that race, Senator McCain simply told them and the American people, "(Senator Obama) He's a decent family man," and "I will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him. You do not have to be scared of him being President of the United States." I will remember those simple words and statements, spoken clearly and with heart and conviction by Senator McCain. Senator McCain displayed grace, eloquence, and character.
As we mourn the death of Senator McCain, we are glad to know that Senator McCain invited President Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent in the 2008 election, to deliver one of the eulogies at his funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
It was interesting to read in "Restless Wave" that Senator McCain had actually considered selecting another Senator, Joe Lieberman, to be his running mate for Vice President, instead of the one he eventually chose, Sarah Palin.
That anecdote reminded me of this truth: The best candidate in any political campaign is not about her or his gender or racial or ethnic background, but the qualifications and experience she or he possesses, and most importantly, her or his character and integrity.
Like millions of Americans, I appreciated Senator McCain's "thumbs down" and crucial and decisive vote not to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, much to the disappointment of most of his fellow Republican Senators who march obediently to the current president's orders. As Senator McCain wrote in "Restless Wave," "I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much," "I can vote my conscience without worry. "
Like millions of Americans, I thank Senator McCain for his decisive vote in rejecting the so-called "skinny repeal" piece of legislation, his vote cast boldly and for the protection of the American people.
I believe that someday, not in the distant future, universal heath care will come to fruition and will become the law of the land.
I had the privilege of watching Senator McCain and his daughter, Meghan McCain, on the TV show, "The View," hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. I love his sense of humor and levity that he displayed. The strong bond and love between Senator McCain and his daughter are very special and enduring.
On "The View," Senator McCain called the Viet Nam War "tragic."
He also said, "If you want to do the Devil's work in Sin City, just go to the Viet Nam War Veterans Memorial."
Senator McCain also spoke about how during the Viet Nam War period, the military draft system was unfair and impacted certain groups of young men disproportionately.
Senator McCain stated, "The young men from the inner cities...and the farm boys, they were drafted. If you were rich, you could get a deferment such as a college deferment."
Senator McCain also stated, "If you were rich, you could get a doctor to sign a form for you to get a deferment."
When one of the co-hosts of "The View" reminded everyone that "somebody got a deferment for 'bone spurs,'" Senator McCain, without missing a beat, said, "yes, twice!" The audience members laughed heartily and applauded loudly for Senator McCain.
Since the death of Senator McCain's death, people in Viet Nam young and old alike have been mourning his death. Vietnamese have expressed their appreciation and gratitude for Senator McCain's work in the re-establishent of diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and the U.S.
Viet Nam's Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs have expressed their gratitude for the Senator's work in the post-war healing, and sent their condolences to Senator McCain's wife and family.
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Viet Nam, has set aside a special room at the Embassy where Vietnamese can write their expressions of condolences to honor Senator McCain.
Besides the common humanity that Senator McCain and I share together, we also appreciate the Beauty of Nature which God gave us, and we both like Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls."
I, too, believe that, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."
Like millions of Americans, and so many Vietnamese in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and others around the world, I will remember Senator McCain.
Thank you, Senator McCain, for all of your work and leadership in serving your country.
I mourn your death. I mourn your passing.
In his book "Restless Wave," Senator McCain quoted from "For Whom The Bell Tolls," "The world is a fine place, ... and I hate very much to leave it." Senator McCain added, "But I don't have a complaint."
As I reflect on Senator McCain's death, I remember the Bible verse which my mother selected for my father's and her tombstone.
I wish to share it with you. It is Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great things and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
Anh Le is a writer and independent journalist.
Copyright ANH LE, September 1, 2018
Sad overcast skies in San Francisco as Senator John McCain is remembered Saturday, September 1, 2018. Respect shown to the American War Hero at the SF Fire Station near Land's End at 41st and Geary, indicative of government buildings all across the City.