Last Thursday, Stephanie and I—along with hundreds of others—attended the celebration of life for our friend, the late Tim McKearn.

When one reaches a certain age, funerals become an unwelcome but sadly regular event.

Tim’s passing prompted more than the usual conversation between us, as we both remarked admirably not only on how he lived his life but also how he left it.

Tim wasn’t a famous son of Beloit for business achievements or wealth, or showy accolades, athletic prowess or any other particular factor. He did well across multiple career fields, but he’s most remembered for his character, his steadiness, his concern for others and his grace. In today’s world, that’s really something.

He lived life like a person should, but few do. Devotion to family. Love of community. Being a ready hand when somebody needed help. Deep kindness seldom seen and seldom appreciated in a world growing ever quicker to embrace conflict.

At a time when it seems the way to be heard is to be brash, bitter, the loudest voice in a room, Tim instead spent as much time listening as he did talking. Thoughtful. Reflective. Empathetic. Quiet reasonableness when he had something that needed saying.

Particularly, over the years I appreciated Tim’s frequent defense of the local newspaper. Though quite aware of our imperfections and errors, Tim often interjected into community conversations the notion that a free press committed to truthful reporting is indispensable. When we found ourselves under attack or pressured, Tim would weigh in with the kind of reason and calm that could disarm emotionally overwrought critics. For that, I will always be grateful.

When Tim was diagnosed with a cruel disease that can take away all hope and lead to despair, he chose a different path. In so many ways Tim showed people how to live. And then he showed people how to die. He took us along on the journey, most notably through his regular social media posts observing and engaging with community issues or just everyday life. The image of Tim, on his porch with his faithful pooch Spooner, will bring a smile to many faces for years.

Tim didn’t hide his disease or where it was leading. He invited people in. On the journey people saw his wisdom, his character, his love of family, his devotion to community, his kindness, his reasonableness, his faith and his grace.

I’m reminded of a profound line included in the film “Braveheart,” purportedly uttered by Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace before his execution: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

Tim really lived. Then he left life like a man with one final lesson to teach. Let’s hope a lot of people learned.

It’s not love

Here’s the message I see from last week’s elections around the country: Winning politicians always hear what they want to hear.

In other words, just because the majority of voters turned out Trump and removed Republican control of Congress did not mean they had fallen in love with Biden and Democrats.

Yet that’s how political winners tend to act. Left or right, if they capture 50% plus one in the voting they govern like everybody wants what they’re selling. Voters usually are not affirming any party or agenda. More often, they are rejecting something or someone they don’t like.

The spinning after Republicans won the Virginia governorship and Democrats barely held the governor’s post in New Jersey was laughable. No, it wasn’t a national rejection of Biden. No, it wasn’t a national embrace of MAGA-world. It was what it always is, an in-the-moment frustration with the conditions people are experiencing. What that means in 2022 or, for heaven’s sake, 2024, is way too far out to predict.

This much is certain, though. Democrats have spent months fighting with themselves and getting very little done, while Biden seemed powerless.

For Republicans it’s like the old saying goes, sometimes attributed to Sun Tzu, sometimes to Napoleon: “Never interfere with an enemy in the process of destroying himself.”

Profile in courage

Love him or hate him, U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, has shown the kind of courage seldom witnessed in politics.

By speaking out against former President Trump’s behavior and joining the Democrat-led January 6 congressional investigation, Kinzinger put his career on the line. And he will pay the ultimate political price for that. In his party’s circles, he’s done. Kinzinger, who has represented the Stateline Area’s Illinois portion, announced he will not seek re-election in the face of certain defeat.

Setting aside whether Kinzinger’s positions are right or wrong—that’s largely an ideological argument—it is nevertheless impressive to see an up-and-coming politician deliberately put his own convictions ahead of prevailing political wisdom, party discipline or career security. That takes the kind of guts rarely seen in politics.

Instead, it’s almost always Team Red versus Team Blue, and everyone in both tribes falls in line.

As Kinzinger finds himself soon banished from the stage, I, for one, applaud his independence.

William Barth is the former Editor of the Beloit Daily News.

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