For better, for
worse, in sickness, and in health, Cindy Sheehan is back in Texas to ask
politely for an audience with (or to mercilessly torment in the media,
whatever, same thing) President George W. Bush to discuss his policies
in that never-win-land of (or that we’re about-to-round-the-corner-in,
if you are politically deluded) Iraq.
Recently in Crawford,
Sheehan began what might become an annual vigil—in its second year
now--until Bush leaves office none too soon. She is laying siege outside
his summer refuge, his getaway from all that ails him the rest of the
year in Washington and overseas. It’s Bush’s chance to stick his head in
the Texas clay soil—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil—and wish
his political problems away upon a star.
Instead of camping in
a roadside ditch near the Bush compound this year, Sheehan recently
bought a real estate lot with the insurance money she received after her
oldest son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Some of the “natives”
were less than amused with her purchase and said so in quiet, and
inhospitable, fashion for local Texas folk.
protestor, a self-righteous patriot by any other name, clarified
America’s First Amendment rights of protest and free speech when Sheehan
first set up camp. He eloquently proclaimed, “Freedom of speech is good
until it gets out of whack.” Who needs the courts to interpret our
constitutional rights when we’ve got Bubba?
mom” is on a mission from God—or the higher being of her choice—and she
refuses to go quietly into that good night. Probably many a
turn-a-blind-eye Bush supporter prays that Sheehan would just flee the
state, to Oklahoma or New Mexico, perhaps, much like the Texas House and
Senate Democrats did in 2003 to attempt to prevent forced partisan
redistricting. Out, out, damn Democrats! “We don’t want you around here
no more,” chant Texas Republicans.
After all, her son is
dead. Sheehan is just another mom grieving her son the best way that she
knows how, attempting to redeem his wartime death with a call for peace.
Oh, the shame of the sin of coveting peace. Oh, the guilt of having
other gods before Bush deity’s du jour, the omnipresent Mars, the god of
war. The unpatriotic are beyond redemption.
Sheehan is not a
solitary dissenter, though. Aren’t there some U.S. generals who agree
with her cause? And let’s not forget those opinion polls that show a
majority of the American public does as well.
Sheehan is not
plotting a sinister revolutionary coup or calling for a mass uprising
against the current Republican regime of Bush, et al. She is not urging
the proletariat class to seize the means of production from the
bourgeoisie. No commies hiding in these hay bales, just a woman
exercising her First Amendment rights--nothing more, nothing less--down
here in Texas.
So call Sheehan trite
or trivial. Call her weepy, whiny, or just plain wacky. Proclaim her
guilt by association with the company she keeps on the left. Accuse her
of exploiting her son’s memory for a political statement. Label her
narcissistic. Suggest that she is Satan-incarnate here on earth,
tempting the God-ordained Bush for 40 days in the wilderness. .
appear to care what TV pontificators and rabid right-wingers think about
her. Who cares about your reputation when your son died for a cause in
which you don’t believe?
critique that Sheehan has and continues to confront reflects how this
country relentlessly persists—decades after the feminist movement—to
characterize women—as witch (with a capital “B”) or Barbie, as villain
or victim. We deify go-along, get-along women but demonize she who dares
defy the status quo. It is chauvinism, Americanized.
The question should
not be why Sheehan is the lone voice in the wilderness protesting for
peace. The question should be why more of us aren’t doing the same.
Cynthia Hall Clements
has worked for the legislatures of both Tennessee and Louisiana and was
most recently a columnist for the “Lufkin Daily News” in Texas. She is
currently attending law school.