McCain Conversion Story and Finding the Self

About McCain’s convention speech, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

10.58 pm. Ending with his war story. It’s a beautiful story – about the limits of independence. Which again is a little odd for a conservative. Aren’t conservatives the ones who highlight the joys of being on your own – especially Western conservatives? But it remains beautiful because the story is beautiful and noble. I’m just not sure it is a reason to vote for a president.

I agree that this is a beautiful story. What Andrew missed is the barely concealed “conversion narrative” or confession of faith. Read the transcript and replace “America” with “God” as the new cause of McCain’s life.  He was a crass and brash military man and was given a gift, yes a gift, he reiterates, in that POW camp.  It wasn’t that the other GIs were kind men, but through them he realized he can’t only serve himself, that something greater calls him.  He suffered in joy with this new mind-heart.

McCain announces he has been a “servant” ever since.  This was spectacularly effective speech writing. No need for a “cross in the sand” and the worry about when he started telling the story. The military hero, uncomfortable with the religious right, is now cast as their greatest representative, the prodigal son, almost.

Is this perspective on finding one’s true self in submission or dependence in contrast to Western conservatism, you ask?  I suggest that evangelical faith and frontier living compliment each other.  Both press “start over”  — one spiritual and one social (truly for the ancestors who moved out from more populated areas, but this is available to the descendents).     Both declare we find our true selves in surrender and service. Frontiers require cooperation to survive.  Such societies have greeting like howdy partner, h’llo mate, shalom haver (Hebrew for friend).  Hunters cannot decide when to hunt, the animal’s habits, the season, (and the gaming commission, I guess) tell us when and where.  Palin posses both forms of appeal.

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One Response to “McCain Conversion Story and Finding the Self”

  1. Athos Says:

    It is interesting and a little more than sad that the MSM considered McCain’s acceptance speech as bland and mediocre for the reasons that you found it a fine one. The MSM does not, cannot, accept that “something greater” that calls him – such concerns are beyond the purview of the scientific method, which, apparently, is their johnny-one-note criterion of “truth”. Beyond this, anything goes … and in the present cultural crisis of distinctions, anything does seem to go.

    What they don’t u. from their 19th-century reductionist pov is what biblical people see, and, again apparently, people like McCain and Palin DO see. November will give us an indication of how much of the U.S. is falling under the mythic (and neo-pagan) spirit of the primitive sacred vs. the biblical spirit moving us away from such human funny business.

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