Nowhere is that more apparent today than in the case of Cindy Sheehan, whose peaceful siege of Prairie Chapel -- a reverse siege of the Alamo, with the good guys on the outside this time, and the bad guys on the inside -- has polarized the nation, or at least a part of it.
Who would have thought when Sheehan set up a roadside camp a few weeks ago, hoping to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the squire of Prairie Chapel, that her presence would have such a powerful polarizing effect?
Well, not the Bushies, that's for sure, and not the timorous members of the White House press corps, who figured on nothing more than the usual August stories about the squire's biking and brush clearing. But then something happened that none of them anticipated. Cindy Sheehan became a symbol for the heartache and frustration that this war has engendered.
On one side of the road, the grieving mother of a soldier son cut down in his prime. On the other side of the road, a self-indulgent, insensitive little man masquerading as president of the United States.
All of a sudden, it wasn't even about Cindy Sheehan, it was about Spc. Casey Sheehan and the 1,800-plus men and women like him who have had their lives stolen by men who have never had to face what they faced, and those who are yet to die in a war that was begun on false pretenses and with no end in sight.
Cindy Sheehan was supposed to wilt in the cruel Texas heat, give up and go home. Instead, she became a magnet, drawing scores of like-minded men and women: Other Gold Star mothers, war widows and veterans of the Iraq fighting, as well as anti-war activists.
The true measure of her mission, though is in the desperate counter-attack by a legion of right-wing ideologues: Intellectuals such as George Will and Christopher Hitchens; hacks like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Fred Barnes and the rest of the Fox News Network propaganda machine, and America's most famous drug addict, Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh likened Sheehan to Bill Burkett, the Texas Air National Guard officer who fed 60 Minutes those apparently forged records about Bush's Guard service. "Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett," the junkie proclaimed. "Her story is nothing more than forged documents."
Including, perhaps, the document that begins: "The Secretary of Defense regrets to inform you ..."?
In an example of a great mind getting right to the heart of a matter, O'Reilly wrote last week: "No one in their right mind would want Michael Moore, George Soros or Cindy Sheehan calling the shots in the war on terror." Granted. Then again, could they botch the job any worse than the people now calling the shots?
It's not just the chicken hawks who have overreacted. Mary deJullis, a columnist for the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Phoenix, visited Camp Sheehan and witnessed this incident when the squire's convoy rolled by on the way to a GOP fundraiser on the afternoon of Aug. 12 with a Secret Service escort:
"A helicopter flew overhead lower than others we were accustomed to. The helicopter had an agent riding outside with a weapon trained on us, but once the motorcade passed he moved on as well. The motorcade went by us twice, very fast, and a few of the vehicles had rifles pointed out open windows, I was thankful no one made any sudden moves."
This is what we've come to in the land of the free. Rather than continue camping in Crawford, Sheehan would be better off getting in shape and practicing for next year's Tour de France. Win that and she gets her interview with the great man. Guaranteed.
Meanwhile, let's see which happens first, a Bush/Sheehan meeting, or the first Democratic member of Congress to show up at Camp Casey in support of Cindy Sheehan.
Don't hold your breath waiting for either one to happen.
© 2005 Press & Sun-Bulletin