Monday, January 26, 2009

Flashback -- Remembering Cindy Sheehan

[Another re-post today. This one is from August 2005. I don't know what became of Cindy Sheehan but I still remember from time to time how she was somehow part of the collateral damage of the Iraq adventure. It is appropriate that we grieve as we leave behind one of the saddest, most carelessly misguided mistakes made by the US in recent times.

This morning's story about a Pakistani man's "honor killing" of his daughter (not in some distant land but in Atlanta) makes me wonder how easily we can see his behavior as the savage act of primitive reasoning that it is, while not seeing that when we abuse the Cindy Sheehans among us, our own behavior, though not as violent, runs parallel. Repentance is in order.]

Aging dims sight but not vision. Sometimes the mind remains supple even as the body grows stiff. I had a flashback this morning as I was reading about Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy Sheehan is that woman in Texas camping out by the president's ranch purporting to want a personal talk with him. Hmm. I think we all know better. But that's not the point. The point is this: she has been radicalized. It's not about talking. It's not about sympathy. It's not about anything more complicated than bringing an end to a war that took the life of Casey Sheehan.

Hours after the WTC attack a sketch by a high school girl captured the attention of a lot of people looking for images to express their feelings. It was a picture of the Statue of Liberty grieving but angry, with a gun in her left hand, clutching an infant in her right arm, with the line, "The most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her children."

It is now four years later and another mother has lost a child. We can talk all day about how that happened, but in the end the fact remains: she has been radicalized. To use a fashionable phrase, she reached the tipping point.

I figured it was coming to this when I looked at yesterday's Huffington blog. Not only did Arianna herself pay homage to Cindy Sheehan, but she was able to marshall her entire stable of bloggers to do the same. The swarm was impressive in size, irrespective of content. The first column in the collection was by Cindy Sheehan herself.

I am a continued thorn in the side of right-wing bloggers and right wing-nut "journalists." One man, Phil Hendry, called me an "ignorant cow." But you know what, the people who have come out from all over the country to give me a hug and support the cause of peace, overwhelms me so much, I don't have time to worry about the negativity and the hatred. The people who are slamming me have no idea about what it feels like to unjustly have a child killed in an insane war. Plus, they have no truth to fight truth with, so they fight truth with more lies and hate.

I recognize righteous indignation when I see it. And this is it. This is not a put-on. This is the genuine article, and whether it is from a restaurant patron feeling "disrespected" by someone on staff who simply made a mistake, or the president of the United States who symbolically represents the policy that cost the life of a twenty-four old son prematurely, the dynamic is the same. This momma no longer cares what happened in the past. She just wants it to stop and walk away feeling that somebody cares and it ain't gonna happen again, to her or anybody else.

(LINK...LINK...LINK...LINK...LINK...LINK...LINK...LINK...and many more. I think it's what we call a swarm.)

Okay, then.

Here is my flashback.

I recall the time when I got radicalized myself, "politicized" as we used to say.

It was when I was still a late teen, off to college for the first time, getting myself exposed to all kinds of strange ideas about racial stereotyping and social development that didn't conform to the template that had been the norm for me for my whole life. At the same time I was hearing a lot of stuff about a war being conducted sotto voce somewhere in Asia in a place called Viet Nam. The Ugly American had just been published. A lunatic group of women was talking about something called "women's' liberation" and a few men were starting to talk about the same thing, realizing that it was about men's' liberation as well. The symbiotic relationship between husbands and wives was being reexamined in the light of what had become a "two-income" family, optional before WWII but clearly becoming mandatory twenty years later.

There was more. Much more. And this is not the place to belabor the point.
But from out of that time I recall the effect that a change in my thinking had on those around me who were not changed in the same way. That included not only my peers and neighbors at school (I was evicted, put on the sidewalk with all my belongings, afraid to call the police) but my family as well. My mother was tolerant, but I don't think my father, whose family had lost their youngest child in WWII, would "understand" for years, as I spent that first summer home from college taking all the necessary steps to have my draft status changed from 1-A to 1-A-O.

It is easy to remember the dramatic stuff. But less dramatic were the calm, sure voices of those whose tone was basically one of sympathy -- no, pity -- that I had been deceived by others. At some level they knew in their hearts that I was not only wrong, but in time I would be able to see the error of my thinking and return to the norms of civil society that have been the hallmark of Southern sensibilities from before I was born.

This morning I came across a couple of expressions of "sympathy" for Cindy Sheehan from people who just want to be helpful. My thanks to The Anchoress whose blog is on my daily reading list, whose post the other day pleading for moderation reached deeply into my soul and made me remember how much I despise the polarization that is tearing the country apart, not only regarding the war, but just about anything else you can mention, from abortion to stem-cell research to evolution to Florida politics. If it were not so long, I would love to publish in its entirety a post I came across recently that cries out for moderation, but I have started to believe that no one would be paying attention anyway.

Robert Jamieson sounds slightly sympathetic, but he sees her as a pawn in a larger conflict that she really doesn't grasp. She wants to make a public splash by allowing critics of the unjustified war in Iraq to use her as a human bazooka against Bush, who got us into this war mess....That Sheehan would allow her private grief to be plied for a public stunt seems unfathomable even if her underlying message about unnecessary blood being shed by American soldiers hits the mark.

Kathleen Parker gets extra points for the best turn of a phrase I have seen lately ["Bush is not Tony Blair, as intelligent design would have it." I love it!]. And she really is sympathetic with Cindy Sheehan.

Speaking as a mother and fellow citizen, my heart goes out to Cindy Sheehan and all other parents of lost sons and daughters. One can only imagine their grief and pain. Thus, my first thought upon hearing her plea for an audience with Bush was that he should run, not walk, and greet her with a warm embrace.

I wanted him to hug her and to say how deeply sorry he is for her loss. I wanted him to face the cameras and, choking back emotion, to tell the world how much he cares for every single son and daughter serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And then I wanted him to be Tony Blair and say all the right things in just the right way so that Cindy Sheehan could return home to Vacaville, Calif., and begin to heal.

I don't think she is making that up to sound sarcastic. I think those sentiments rise from a place deep inside that anyone can understand. But in the end, she agrees with those whose support of this war is virtually absolute. Cindy Sheehan is no longer just a grieving mother. She's a media extravaganza, a political pawn and a rallying icon - the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement, as she has been dubbed.... At this point, Sheehan's demands have become impossibly problematic for Bush. Just as intended? By declining to see her, he seems cruel and out of touch with others' suffering. But by seeing her, he puts himself - and potentially the security of others - at great risk....Bush, regardless of what he personally might wish to do, has responsibilities that far exceed the crowd gathering beyond his Prairie Chapel Ranch....Democrats might be delighted to freeze that image in political time, but so would insurgents planning their next Baghdad ambush.

In a few short sentences, Cindy Sheehan has been morphed, as have all of us whose opposition to this war cannot be seen in anything but the most treasonable light, into the next reason another bomb kills someone in Iraq. Human bazooka, indeed!

I can't think of anything that I can add that will describe my flashback any plainer. I can identify with her simply because I remember arguments and discussions from long ago, from gentle, civil people, trying to convince me that by being a part of something triggering violence, I was somehow responsible for that violence.


W.C. Varones said...

Arianna's minions are either illiterate or deliberately lying about the news.

Hoots said...

Hmm...I suppose that's germane to this post in some oblique way.
I can remember a time when I would get together with friends to listen to LP records. This was "back in the day" before electronic editing, so large symphonic productions had to be flawless to be used for recording.
With several years of advanced study and a couple of professional musicians in our midst, it was great sport to pick out mistakes on an LP recording.

"Quiet!...Listen now...THAT'S IT! Did you hear that?!"

Spoiled understanding the music, you know, but it was great fun.

Later I learned to appreciate the grunts, thumps, humming, pings and garbled runs of people like Vladimir Horowitz and Pablo Casals on old records.
But only later.
Gershwin and Prokofiev sound good on piano rolls, by the way...but I digress.

Anonymous said...
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Hoots said...

My first spam.
Interesting. I have about fifteen or so hits in an hour from places I know nothing about. I guess my url must be posted in some public area...restroom, maybe? Who knows?
Not as much fun as trolls.