A Letter To Cindy Sheehan: Darkness Comes Just Before Dawn
It was sad to read Cundy Sheehan's letter of "resignation" from the peace movement because she offered so much of herself-despite all the personal pain she suffered from the loss of her son, the breakup of her family, and all the vicious and insensitive attacks on her politics and personhood.
I could feel her frustration and exasperation with Democrats who patronized her only to end up supporting the war in the end. I share her anger at elements of the "peace movement" which is really a movement in pieces, often marching in lockstep with Congressional Democrats and only paying lip service to the grassroots constituencies and the many who have given and suffered so much to oppose this bloodbath in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cindy inspired the following she did because she was a genuine convert to activism, an articulate mainstream person who put her body on the line and spoke truth to power with an unmistakable sincerity.
Her honestly and energy contrasted sharply with the agenda-driven caution of those on the Hill and the many organizations that think politics is about raising money on lime to fund political commercials in the mainstream media or occasionally taking symbolic stands.
It was not surprising that she would burn up in anger and burn out in energy,
In some ways, she reminded me of another "indigenous" leader in another movement years back who I was blessed to know-Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Mississippi, a share cropper turned civil rights activists who gave the movement its soul and who ended up, years later, alone unknown and unappreciated.
Like Cindy, Fanny Lou gave her movement its authenticity and its voice. She is remembered, in part, for saying, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. "
Cindy got sick and tired too of all the cowardly deal-making and betrayals, She wrote bitterly to Congress and then about herself:
"How can you even go to sleep at night or look at yourselves in a mirror? How do you put behind you the screaming mothers on both sides of the conflict? How does the agony you have created escape you? It will never escape me ... I can't run far enough or hide well enough to get away from it.
By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and MoveOn.org will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings."
Personally, I know how she feels. When I made the film, WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception) challenging the media role in the war, many anti-war groups paid lip service to its message and then did little or nothing to promote it. Perhaps that's why some activists call MoveOn.org "Walkon.org" when it comes to the issues of media deception or for that matter any issues that also holds Democrats and corporate media institutions accountable.
It is so much easier and emotionally self-righteous to attack easier targets like the Republicans and Bush White House.
Lets face it, the media has not really changed and nor have many Democrats. They believe in convenient truths and don't recognize the importance of demanding media integrity. Don't forget that most of the media coverage was hostile to Democrats setting a timeline and many pundits pressured them to relent in the name of "pragmatism," patriotism, or getting the pork they wanted for their own districts.
I don't think Cindy has really resigned from politics. But she is upset and has a right to be. She has lost so much and is also apparently in debt---something this director of the film In Debt We Trust can relate to
Sometimes I wish I could resign from the media reform movement that I helped organize because it has been so hard for us to get support for Mediachannel.org, our fabulous media and democracy online network now in its 7th year. We will have to close our doors in a month unless we can find the funding to keep our modest operation alive.
Unfortunately, our movement, like many others, has a hard time working together and prefers pricey conferences, "events" and behind the scenes lobbying to mass outreach, education and organizing. Again, it's predictable to bash Fox News rather than focus on all the biased coverage across the spectrum.
We need help to keep going even as some of our original backers suffer "funder fatigue," turning away from supporting long term movement-building work, and independent journalism, in favor of celebrity-oriented events that get their names in the paper.
Cindy, please don't leave us-understand that frustration, factionalism, fatalism and infighting is part of the process of dissent and often it makes working for peace or media change an ordeal.
You need a long-term perspective and a willingness to fight like a warrior.
Your son Casey perished in one war. Please don't allow yourself to perish in this one. Understand that it is a war, and in wars, you don't win every battle. The goal has to be-and I say this with love and respect--- to live to fight another day. It's always dark just before the dawn.