Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Where the Mavericks Roam
Senator John McCain is dead, much to everyone's loss. Though technically a Republican, he held firmly to ideas that would have branded him a Libertarian if the party had existed when he first got into politics.
So would a previous-generation Arizona maverick politician, Barry Goldwater. We do seem to come up with remarkably independent-minded politicians. We come up with other political oddities too, like our first senator after Arizona became a state in 1912: Carl Hayden, who held onto his job until he died of old age, some 50 years later. Likewise consider Sheriff Joke: Joe Arpaio, who was a game that Arizonians enjoyed playing until his fiascoes began costing the state serious money. Like Russell Pearce, who was discreetly but blatantly for sale -- in that he'd sponsor a bill for anyone who met his price -- and the price was low, and always the same for everybody, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc. Like various tribal politicians who exploited a loophole in the law to create the industry of Indian-reservation casinos.
As I've often said, this isn't a "conservative" state but a weird state -- and we seem to breed weird politicians too.
They're weird in every direction, but one thing they seem to have in common is that once they've set themselves a moral-compass direction -- good, bad, mixed, whatever -- they tend to stick to it, no matter what.
One story McCain told about himself that nobody else seems to have remembered. When he was shot down and captured in Vietnam, the Viet-Cong captors took advantage of his injuries to try to try and pry information out of him. In particular, they wanted the names of the staff in his flight-group. Knowing that if they kept torturing him he'd break eventually -- and also knowing that the Cong didn't know half as much about the US military as they claimed -- he gave them the names of the ASU football team the year he graduated. Satisfied, they went off and left him alone with the medics. The guy knew his limits, kept his wits about him, and outfoxed his tormentors.
That's the kind of practical wiliness that I see among the mavericks hereabouts, and I'd love to know what there is about the subculture of the great desert state that breeds this kind of thinking.
Whatthehell, maybe it's the heat. There's a saying: you know you're a true Arizonian when you'll walk a quarter-mile across a parking-lot just to park in the spindly shade of a Palo Verde tree. Or maybe it's the way we're obliged to not just conserve but treasure water. Or maybe it's the grim necessity of dealing with the goddam gophers. Who knows?
In any case, McCain was a genuine Arizona maverick, and we'll be a long time finding another like him.