On Cindy Sheehan

So Gold Star peace mom Cindy Sheehan is quitting the American antiwar movement. That's bad news.

Sheehan lost her son, Casey, on April 4, 2004, in Sadr City, Baghdad. In August of 2005 she set up a makeshift camp outside of George W. Bush's summer compound, asking for a reason for her son's death. His arrogance in ignoring her and her anti-war stance quickly caught the media's attention. A peace movement coalesced around her.

Now, disgusted with Republicans, Democrats, left wingers, right wingers and especially middle-wingers - in fact, with almost all of America - Sheehan has announced that she is leaving the public stage.

"Camp Casey has served its purpose. It's for sale," she wrote in her impassioned and disgusted farewell letter to America.

"I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither... Casey did indeed die for nothing."

America is fast descending into "a fascist corporate wasteland," she said. The Democrats are as blind and spineless as the Republicans. The sacrifices she made while attempting to stop the war have been for nothing. "I spent every available cent I got from the money a 'grateful' country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then," she wrote. "I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey's brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection... I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times."

While I never met Sheehan, we corresponded every now and then - usually when I wrote something that she particularly liked. I was always flattered. She is one of my heroes.

Let me qualify that word.

As a kid, I was inspired by the great heroes, by people like Joan of Arc. Then, as a teenager, I decided I didn't want to be burned at the stake. The tension in that dichotomy has stayed with me every since.

There are real leaders and false leaders, true heroes and media-created heroes. Abbie Hoffman and Gloria Steinem, for example, were media creations who diluted and eventually destroyed the "movements" they were supposed to be leading.
What about Sheehan? After all, millions of people around the world took to the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq. So why her?

Because her bravery in plunking her lone self down on Bush's doorstep was extraordinary. Bush may now have a 28 percent approval rating, but back then most Americans supported him and few newspapers dared question his actions.
When Sheehan went to Crawford, she gave a lazy and timid press an alternative to regurgitating Bush's propaganda. She gave millions of Americans the knowledge that they were not alone. She stood up for what was right.

Yes, Sheehan was the real deal. Her tragic loss gave her dignity and respect. Her fury was real and earned. Her demand for an answer revealed Bush as the coward he is.

Sadly, approval ratings don't matter much to Bush. He and his neoconservatives live in a different world. They play a different game.

"What would be the consequences of failure in Iraq?" Bush said in a recent press conference. "See, people have got to understand that if that government were to fall, the people would tend to divide into kind of sectarian enclaves, much more so than today, that would invite Iranian influence and would invite al-Qaida influence, much more so than in Iraq today. That would then create enormous turmoil, or could end up creating enormous turmoil in the Middle East, which would have a direct effect on the security of the United States."

This is the president of La La Land speaking. Iraq couldn't be more divided into sectarian enclaves than it is today, or hadn't he noticed? Iran's influence is already large and growing larger. Bush has made Iraq a recruiting advertisement for al-Qaida.

"Creating enormous turmoil in the Middle East..."? What does he think is going on now? And yes, having the entire Middle East hate us does directly influence the future of the United States. Maybe we should do something about that? Like getting out of Iraq and supporting the Palestinian people as well as the Israelis?

"I recognize there are a handful there or some who just say, get out, it's just not worth it, let's just leave," Bush said. "I strongly disagree with that attitude. Most Americans do, as well." A handful? Most Americans? What are you talking about, Mr. 28 Percent?

As mad as she is toward Republicans, Sheehan is also rightly furious at the Democrats for caving in to Bush on the war financing bill.

Come the next election, however, I think Sheehan will see a change. The Pelosi Democrats - those fat cats still licking the gravy off their paws, people like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and others - could be voted out of office. The people are angry. They want this war to end.

All great heroes suffer. Many spend time in jail. In America, a lot of them also get shot. America is a big country; it's hard to upend the status quo here.

Right now, Sheehan is exhausted and dismayed. "Good-bye America," she wrote. "You are not the country that I love... I can't make you be that country unless you want it. It's up to you now."

Like Rosa Parks before her, Americans will some day praise Sheehan for her courage in standing up for right against the most fiendish kinds of wrong. In the meantime, the rest of us must continue to fight. If we stop, Bush has won. And we can't let that happen.

Joyce Marcel is a journalist and columnist based in Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at joycemarcel@yahoo.com.

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