Taking a Knee ... 

Senator John McCain

Traceywood | Dreamstime

Senator John McCain

Last Thursday, my wife and I were driving to my Missouri hometown to celebrate my stepmom's 97th birthday. We were listening to NPR on Sirius, and much of the news and commentary concerned President Trump's then-recent speech in Alabama, in which he said that any NFL owner who had a player on his team who knelt for the National Anthem, should "fire the son of a bitch!"

The president's agenda was clear: If you kneel, you're a flag-disrespecting son of a bitch. If you stand, you stand with real Americans and, of course, with Donald Trump. NASCAR fans wouldn't kneel, Trump added, further finessing the not-so-hidden racial element of his Alabama speech.

It was red meat for all. Here you go, Fox! Here you go, CNN! Have at it, NPR! Your news cycle is set, courtesy of President Blowhard.

My wife and I listened to this stuff for a while, but we soon tired of it and turned it off. We began talking about Mom and her long and interesting life. She was a woman ahead of her time, serving in World War II as a sergeant in the U.S. Marines. After the war, she worked as a secretary in various companies in St. Louis, before moving to my home town in the early 1950s, where she met and married my dad. She got three very young boys with that deal: me and my two brothers. Three little hellions, to be honest.

It can't have been easy, but she was a firm and caring mother, and she and dad had more than 50 years together — and my sister. After my dad died, Mom kept going, driving her pristine vintage Buick to the grocery store and church and taking long walks around my hometown. We had to take the car away last year, and in recent months, her health had declined. She was living in a rehabilitation facility after suffering a broken hip in August.

Most years, the family gathers from around the country for Mom's September 24th birthday — my brothers, my sister, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. My wife and I arrived Thursday night. Mom died at 6:30 Friday morning. So, what was going to be a birthday weekend became a family gathering for a funeral. We buried her Monday. There were plenty of tears, but there was laughter, too. At two days short of 97, she'd had a life well-lived and one well worth celebrating. She was always frugal and Midwest-practical; we decided she just went ahead and passed, knowing we were all going to be in town, anyway, thereby saving us a trip.

Semper Fi, Mom.

On the way home, the radio pundits were still parsing the NFL/anthem controversy. Trump had kept feeding the fire over the weekend, alternating insults of NBA and NFL players with insults of Senator John McCain, an American war hero and Republican who'd had the nerve to call out the GOP's "health-care" bill for the sham that it is.

Trump has made a habit of disparaging McCain, of course, most famously by saying in 2015, "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." This, from a man who got out of serving his country by claiming he had flat feet. What a patriot.

Trump has crossed the line of human decency so often and so egregiously, that his stupidity and cruelty have become almost normalized. Trashing a dying man who's served his country for 60 years is just par for the course for this unrepentent dotard.

Like Senator McCain, my Mom served her country, and like McCain, she was a life-long Republican. And though she would be horrified by the words, I like to think even Mom might agree that when it comes to this president, it's time to fire the son of a bitch.

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