Saturday, November 08, 2008

Book Review: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain

Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir by John McCain


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Faith of My Fathers is the book about the making of a military officer, whose author was preparing for the 2000 Republican Presidential primary campaign. McCain talks about his father and grandfather, both successful Navy officers (an Admiral who became CINCPAC, and a submarine Captain).



McCain discusses his relationship with the Navy in the context of this family. The fact that as a young man, he was not so serious about the Navy, that it started out looking like just a job. In this, he acknowledged that he probably disappointed his family as well as others who cared deeply about the Navy as an institution.



He writes that his sense of duty and seriousness grew as he served and gained responsibility. First, with his midshipman cruise, where he went to sea on a deployed ship. Then as he had multiple tours of duty on a carrier.



With all of his mentors, and experiences, he makes it to the second part, his service in the Vietnam war then being a prisoner of war of the Vietnamese. With his now maturing sense of duty to country and fellow servicemen, he undergoes interrogation by the Vietnamese, and the offers to break faith with his fellow prisoners or for freedom in return for false statements. And he intimidates that it was his developing sense of duty and honor, that was not present at the beginning of his Naval Academy times, that gave him the strength to bear it, and return with honor.



In it essence it is a story of how a pattern of dealing with adversity and responsibility turned into strength of character, in time to face a test of character. It is a very deeply personal story. It suffers from this degree of personal intimacy, because it lacks generalization. This may have cost him during the 2000 campaign, when political supporters of George W. Bush spread rumors that his time as a POW, detailed in the book, actually made McCain a "Manchurian Candidate." While the Bush supporters campaign was very efficiently run, I would have wished this book could have been a better foil to the 2000 smear campaign.



The deeply personal nature of this makes it different then the books related by Afghanistan and Iraq veterans (military and otherwise) that I have read. Granted, it is because I tend to read the books that are closer to my experience, but most of what I have read deals with the need to work with the locals, the difficulty of working with people who were not open and honest with you. Of knowing that even people who were in fact supporting you, could not be open with you because of the hazards they faced when you walked away for the day. Because of this, the current generation writes more about having to depend on each other, on those they trained with, shared their struggles, and the lessons they all learned together. Yes, all learned much about themselves, but even that was done in the context of others in service. Faith of My Fathers almost suffers because it focuses so much inward.


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