Almost all the Western tribes had death songs; one for when they were about to die in battle, to taunt their enemy, another to tell their fathers they would soon be crossing over, and a third, if their heart was bad, to disguise their fear of the uncertainty of crossing over.
My father’s mother, an insufferable and arrogant woman, would cross the street to the other side just to chastise black miners who did not doff their hat to her as she walked by. And she was from Indiana. My grandfather had a small side room where he kept a bed and a small library of religious texts, while my grandmother’s bedroom library was filled with Mickey Spillane mysteries. She shook her fist and railed against God all the years I’d known her, but not as one who didn’t believe in Him, but one who hated Him, as if He’d done her some great wrong. I never knew what that was, but maybe it was just a great disservice, as she was very high strung. Granddad once told me she was always angry that things didn’t turn out better for her.
Then, in failing health after my grandfather passed, she slowly “feared” herself to death over two years, awaiting having to meet the judgment of that same One she’d most hated all those years. Her own arrogance and pride had bolted shut all the doors that were always open to her, simply by saying “I’m sorry” in the most private of ways.
I don’t know John McCain’s religious convictions, but he is a type, and a type we’ve all known or seen. A vain and arrogant man who has no fear of any god any man would recognize, who prides himself by the number of men he has made quake in their boots in fear of his anger and wrath, by the pain he has inflicted on those who have denied him his way, and nothing else, I know this man well.
Johnny McCain was always high strung, as told to me by an Academy classmate, who said his one red button was “not getting his way”.
So I guess we’re seeing that third death song of the dying Sioux when his heart is bad, except he’s lacked the decency to go out onto a hilltop alone.
A sinking ship with no excess baggage to throw overboard to keep his spirit afloat.
The Dakota Sioux had the good manners to go out onto that hilltop.
(It is a good day to die.)
Cross-posted at Veterans’ Tales.