How the Senator Trivializes and Insults the Real Heroes
By STEVEN T. BANKO
Am I the only one to think that John McCain trivializes both his sacrifice as a POW and the determination of a wide range of specially challenged Americans to lead productive lives? I’m referring to McCain’s repetition of his POW status as a wild card to trump any failing that is otherwise difficult to explain.
Was there any more pathetic display of his willingness to cheapen his sacrifice than McCain’s recent performances with Jay Leno and Katie Couric? He couldn't remember how many houses he owns because he once had “no house, no kitchen table, no chair.” One might think not having a house as a prisoner might make one more acutely aware of exactly how many houses one owned—but not John McCain.
Now we’re told McCain is computer illiterate because – you guessed it — he was a POW and his tortured arms can’t work a keyboard. Tell that to the millions of profoundly disabled Americans who master cyberspace with their teeth, who navigate in wheelchairs with their chins or a single functioning finger, or who communicate with synthesizers. They struggle every day to prove how normal they are. Their lives are campaigns against prejudice and stereotypes and fear. They fight through their disabilities. They adapt to a world that too often turns its eyes away from them.They strive not for privilege or for pampering or for priority. Instead, they seek only opportunity. Their impediments are challenges, not excuses. Their obstacles are surmounted every day. Their opportunities are seized with grit and determination.
People overcome blindness, deafness and physical limitation every day. Army and VA hospitals are replete with traumatic amputees – veterans McCain didn’t think deserved increased benefits — whose heroism didn’t end with their injuries. They continue to achieve, to overcome and to succeed in the face of obstacles that would overwhelm most people and apparently including John McCain.
More than one in five handicapped Americans earn college degrees. They do so by adapting to the learning environment not by whining about its difficulties. They set a goal. They work toward achieving that goal. And they can take full credit when they overcome their disability and earn their triumph. They don’t demand accommodation, nor do they use their disability as an excuse. It’s a reality they live with on the road to earning and achieving “normalcy” in their lives. In the early days of John McCain’s career, there was little mention of his disability, even though we all knew about his torture. McCain’s ability to overcome that disability was a notable achievement. That achievement is diminished now that he uses it as an excuse.
No one expects that John McCain would be an avid weight lifter in light of his disabilities. No one expects him to be a marathoner or a tennis player. But we ought to expect that his mental acuity is agile enough to master the basics of the greatest technological advancement of the 20th century.
There might be a reasonable explanation for McCain not knowing how many houses he owns. There might be a similar explanation for his computer illiteracy. But being a POW four decades ago is not it.
Steven T. Banko III served in Vietnam, where he was awarded two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, the Air Medal and Four Purple Hearts. He has long been active in veterans' affairs and is a frequent contributor to Buffalo Report.