Tough weekend. I’m focused on Brush and Bulky, cleaning my house for the arrival of my daughter, and worrying about how to help LB fix her tortoise enclosure, so Robin the tortoise won’t suffer when we get much needed rain. (“I have an engineering problem,” says she. Right, I’m thinking, and you called … me?)
On my side, workwise, there are still post-trial issues which require attention. And plenty of clients who, rightfully, want their matters attended to. None of which, including the personal matters, accounts for the tough weekend.
On Saturday I attended a memorial service for an old friend, Scott Gibson, who left us too soon. Scott was an extraordinary contributor to the betterment of our community, and one of the shrewdest attorneys I’ve encountered. Usually, we found ourselves on the same side, but on the one significant occasion when we represented opposing parties he bested me with a move as clever and honorable as any I’ve ever seen. (More than 15 years have passed, and I still tell the story a few times a year.)
Scott had a passion, which wasn’t law. He loved to cook for lots of people. Big groups. (Our relationship did not include any of those groups, although he tried for years to get me and my daughter to Kiddie Kampout. Our loss.) Still, I have heard enough about these meals, for years, to know he was the real deal on the cooking front.
Scott never fulfilled his dream: opening a taco shack on the beach in Mexico. Still, he fed people with a passion most of us don’t have … for anything. (Years ago, Scott owned a small piece of a restaurant. We all scratched our heads, for bankruptcy lawyers know better, mostly. Again, though, there was that passion!)
The Reverend Forrest Church told us to want what we have, do what we can, and be who we are. Scott Gibson lived those values. Rest easy, old friend: you mattered!
The other loss involves more familiar territory. Senator John McCain died on August 25.* (Senator Ted Kennedy—his friend and adversary—died on the same day, nine years ago, from the same dreadful disease process.)
John McCain was a politician. He was flawed, too, but that should surprise no one. Politics ain’t beanbag, and we shouldn’t expect those we elect to act like saints. Still, with his passing Mr. McCain provides an opportunity to reflect on the sorry state we’re in.
I agreed almost never with Mr. McCain. But he showed up, and he gave us—all of us, and those of us in Arizona who elected him eight times—everything he had. For sure, on many occasions he hewed the party line, sometimes maddeningly. “Hello.” That’s what politicians do.
When John McCain didn’t stick to the hymnal, his actions reflected care and concern for regular people. He showed up, days after his glioblastoma diagnosis, to save the Affordable Care Act. He had voted against it years earlier, and surely voted with his party when, repeatedly, it tried to end it. Donald Trump might have had something to do with the last vote, but I choose to believe he voted Nay on the merits, after having a chance to see Obamacare working.
He pushed for immigration reform, coming from the party which doesn’t understand the whole melting pot thing. On this issue decency and smarts won out, as opposed to the Build-a-Wall mentality which predominates in the Republican Party today.
And then there was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 aka McCain-Feingold, the pre-Citizens United law which tried to manage the flow of money into political campaigns. McCain-Feingold was imperfect, for sure, but it recognized a problem which eats out the innards of our democracy.
Certainly, we have leaders today who exemplify honor, courage, and the McCain work ethic. But governance as a vocation escapes us, more and more. We’re not electing our best people and, frankly, I think too many people wants these jobs for the wrong reasons.
John McCain lived up to Reverend Church’s dictates, too. Rest easy, sir, and thank you for your service. You mattered!
*Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic wrote John McCain Would Have Passed the Anne Frank Test. It’s the best McCain tribute I’ve read.
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