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Faith of My Fathers, a Closer Look

John McCain wrote a book “Faith of My Fathers” this book gave us an insight of his life, the life of his father and the life of his grandfather. The book takes the form of an autobiography where John talks about his life. The book primarily gives us the message that John inherited the faith of his fathers. This paper will venture on discussing the ideology of the text written by John McCain. This paper will be of two essential parts: it will be divided into The Father’s Faith and The Son’s Misunderstood Faith.

Using rhetorical criticism this paper will espouse both the positive and the negative interpretations of the book. The part of the Father’s Faith will illustrate the positive message that could be gleaned from the book. The part of the Son’s Misunderstood Faith on the other hand will show us the misconception and the wrong message that the book provides. After careful consideration of both views this paper will proceed to a conclusion hereby expressing what may necessarily be implied from the ideology of John McCain’s book .

The Fathers Faith Many sons follow the footsteps of their male ascendants their fathers and grandfathers. More often than not, ever since the birth of a child he is brought into an environment with his father as his superior. With this kind of environment it almost always happens that the child would follow the footsteps of his father to make him proud. The father on the other hand puts his faith upon his son in the hope that he becomes a better man than he was. This kind of ideology is most easily traced on families with military lineage.

Such is the case of John McCain and such has been manifested in his book. The son has a constant element of concern. His concern involves whether he can surpass or even simply meet the standards set by his father. It is granted that these standards may not be explicitly stated however the fact remains that it is there ever constant and unrelenting. There exists a standard whether express or implied set by a father in order for his son to reach. So often this standard is higher than what the father has achieved and most often sons do everything in order to meet this standard.

This is best manifested by the words of John McCain in his book as cited below: My father and grandfather had enjoyed only slightly less tarnished reputations at the Naval Academy. My father, perhaps mindful of his own performance, rarely chastised me for falling well short of an exemplary midshipman’s standards. My behavior was not something that particularly worried my father. I believe he assumed that, like him, I would be absorbed into the traditions of the place whether I wished to or not, and that when the time arrived for me to face a real test of character, I would not disappoint him.

He had seen many an officer who enjoyed the reputation of a rake-indeed, he had been one himself-rise to the occasion in the most dire situations. He expected no less from me. Even as I spent my years as a junior officer in the same profligate manner I had spent my Academy years, I cannot recall his severely rebuking me. He knew I would fight, and I think he trusted me to do my duty when my moment arrived. I don’t know if I deserved his trust, but I am proud to have had it. (Cited in: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain, 1999)

The above statements made by John McCain in his book are proof of the said standard existing between a father and his son in this case John McCain his father and grandfather. John explains that even though he was not of exemplary midshipman’s standards his behavior was not really the object of attention of his father. He felt that his father knew that he could meet the standards had set for him. This is despite of John McCain’s behavior because his father knew that their lineage the faith his father had was enough.

He knew that when the time comes John McCain will meet the standards his father has set for him. The faith of his fathers which is also the subject and title of John McCain’s Book has been considered by him as many things. He considers it as an inspiration and as a legacy. What is most striking however is his use of the faith of his fathers as a source of strength. Faith shared between all sons and fathers ultimately exist. This fact was very well manifested by John McCain as he used it as a source of strength. A statement in this book shows us how he used this faith as a source of strength:

This is the faith that my commanders affirmed, that my brothers-in-arms encouraged my allegiance to. It was the faith I had unknowingly embraced at the Naval Academy. It was my father’s and grandfather’s faith. A filthy, crippled, broken man, all I had left of my dignity was the faith of my fathers. It was enough. (Cited in: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain 1999) Faith as strong as the one held by John McCain was faith he inherited from his fathers. It was unbreakable and unrelenting it is one of the greatest gifts a father can ever give his son. The Son’s Misunderstood Faith

Upon careful review of the book the obvious and common misconception is that the father’s faith is at all times a good thing. A father’s faith is very much like a father’s standard. Faith given by fathers contrary to popular belief is not always a good thing. A father and son will always have certain similarities this does not however mean that the son will only be good at what the father does. The assumption of such faith given by the father limits the probability of the son to explore new things and to deviate from the norms and standards already set by his father.

Take the case of John McCain admittedly he did not perform well in his days at school still his mindset was that he would follow his father’s footsteps because of his father’s faith. Without this faith without this standard John McCain could have further explored his potential yet because of his Fathers faith he was left in this destiny. I did not want my experiences in Vietnam to be the leitmotif of the rest of my life. I am a public figure now, and my public profile is inextricably linked to my POW experiences.

Obviously, such recognition has benefited my political career, and I am grateful for that. Many men who came home from Vietnam, physically and spiritually damaged, to what appeared to be a country that did not understand or appreciate their sacrifice carried the war as a great weight upon their subsequent search for happiness. But I have tried to make what use I can of Vietnam and not let the memories of war encumber the rest of my life’s progress. Neither have I been content to accept that my time in Vietnam would stand as the ultimate experience of my life.

Surely it was a formative experience, but I knew that life promised other adventures, and I hurried toward them. (Cited in: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain, 1999) Even John McCain himself as shown in the citation made from his book above expressed that life has many more to offer him. He is aware that there are things that may encumber the rest of his life’s progress because he chose the destiny of his father. You see sometimes the legacies given to us may not always benefit us but because of this legacy we are put in a situation where we have to walk the very same steps.

There is a seeming misconception among readers to see this as positive. It is clear that this is due to the norms of society which dictates that we are to follow the footsteps of our fathers and we are to make them proud. The irony exists however in the fact that because of such norm we are not free to explore our potential. Also in this book was evident that John was a non conformist he was not well disciplined. He himself confessed to this fact. He stated in his book that he was a womanizer he drank and he was not one of the more disciplined students.

That is why it is strange how his drinking and womanizing ways and his lack of discipline was simply shrugged or was simply considered okay because he knew he had his father’s faith. Just because your father and grandfather also had drinking problems it does not follow that you will have drinking problems. John McCain’s ideology of his father’s faith seems to release him from responsibility for all of his past undisciplined acts and indiscretions. This ideology was what he used in order to give himself a moral pass and consider all the mistakes he made to be okay.

However is it not true that even though we are very much like our parents we have a choice to stray away from their bad habits? Isn’t using the idea of our parent’s bad habits a bad excuse? Contrary to the image being portrayed by the book of John McCain which portrayed him as a person with a strong character in truth and in fact he manifested himself as a person of a weaker character. Conclusion: At the outset this paper ventured on deriving a rhetorical criticism on the ideology of John McCain from his book.

Having carefully studied the text and weighing all the possible views that can be inferred this paper will provide what it has found. Note that the book of John McCain was practically his life story and where he used the faith of his fathers as his guiding strength. The opposite view to the message espoused by the text is favored by this paper. The reason for such is that despite the clear intention of the book to manifest the strength of character of John McCain this paper has found the opposite. The book instead manifested the weakness of John McCain’s character.

Several times in the book John McCain mentioned of all the bad things he had done. John McCain however shrewdly made it appear that this was something that has been also done by his father. He used as an excuse the faith of his fathers that will eventually lead him to where he wants to be. Despite everything he had done with low moral conviction he presumed that just because he had the faith of his fathers he would push through. He started, continued and ended relying on the faith of his fathers – a poor selection of ideology to espouse.

Works Cited Faith of My Fathers by John McCain Released August 1999

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