Our Opinion: When we see one

Politics in our country has taken a decidedly unpleasant, unproductive turn during recent years. Once, we Americans were able to agree to disagree. We could have sometimes dramatically opposing views on the issues, debating them fiercely, without shattering our sense of being one people with the same hopes, dreams and basic morals.

Even now, however, it is possible for those of all political persuasions to recognize that one of our genuine heroes, Sen. John McCain, needs our prayers.

McCain, R-Ariz., was diagnosed this week with a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. At 80 years old, there is a tough fight ahead of him.

Senate President Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referred to McCain as “a hero to our (Republican) conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied away from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life.”

Extraordinary courage is putting it mildly.

McCain was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, displaying a special kind of bravery and patriotism during his missions. Then he was shot down and spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

During his stay in the “Hanoi Hilton,” McCain became a leader among fellow POWs, again showing courage at a time it was risky to do so. His captors recognized his efforts with repeated brutality.

He has been a senator for many years, and has earned a reputation for another kind of courage, that of being a political maverick. He has followed that course in the Senate, and did in 2008 as the GOP candidate for president.

Few may agree with McCain all of the time, but his determination to do what is right as he sees it is a model too seldom followed in Washington.

His patriotism in that regard has earned him the high regard of leaders in both political parties — and, we trust, of all Americans, who know a hero when we see one among us.

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