17 August 2005: Cindy Sheehan

Attacking a mother is un-American

In America, motherhood ranks with the flag and, for some, apple pie. I admit to cherry pie being my favorite, but only a lowlife would desecrate the flag or disrespect a mother. Even though Mum passed on some 20 years ago, Mother’s Day is still a special day for me. My one male chauvinistic statement: Real men hold a place in their hearts for all mothers, especially for those who have suffered the loss of a child.

In the Catholic tradition, the Blessed Mother holds a very singular place. One of her images is that of the Sorrowful Mother. Beginning in the fourteenth century, the Servite Order began honoring Mary by way of the Seven Sorrows, from the prophecy of Simeon to the placing of the body of Jesus into the tomb. Mythologically speaking, it can, even for non-Catholics, serve as the archetype of the grieving mother who copes with the suffering and then untimely death of her child. That is what comes to mind for me when observing Cindy Sheehan’s protest at the Bush vacation compound this month.

Cindy Sheehan is a member of a very unique group of parents—those who have lost a son or daughter during the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Mrs. Sheehan has just one question for President Bush: Why did my son have to die? You see, she has refused to accept the latest spin designed to justify the war—he died for a “just and noble cause.” As such, she has put full focus on this man who has tried to hide from the stark reality of the morass he has created by his ill-advised invasion of a sovereign nation that posed no threat to US security.

In her statement on the Huffington Post website (huffingtonpost.com), Mrs. Sheehan says this is George Bush’s “accountability moment.” She insists, “The mainstream media aren’t holding him accountable. Neither is Congress. So I’m not leaving Crawford until he’s held accountable.” As a result, Mrs. Sheehan has been paying a price.

The rightwing press and media, ever so reliable propagandists and apologists for even the most egregious acts of the Bush-Cheney administration, have disgustingly unloaded on her without impunity. Following the pattern of the smear campaigns against John McCain, John Kerry, Richard Clarke, and Joe Wilson, the assault on Cindy Sheehan has been classic Karl Rovian, a “shock and awe” campaign to smear a mother who has made the ultimate sacrifice—in her case, the life of her son—something not one of them has or is willing to do. She notes, “It’s ironic, given the attacks leveled at me recently, how some in the media are so quick to scrutinize — and distort — the words and actions of a grieving mother but not the words and actions of the President of the United States.”

In her actions, Mrs. Sheehan has drawn the light, which has helped set the rightwing pundits and talking heads into the a slobbering frenzy, to the hypocrisy of not only to this President but also to so many of the war hawks, asking “If it’s such a noble cause, have you asked your daughters to enlist? Have you encouraged them to go take the place of soldiers who are on their third tour of duty?” She continues, “The people who send our young, honorable, brave soldiers to die in this war, have no skin in the game. They don’t have any loved ones in harm’s way. As for people like O’Reilly and Hannity and Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh and all the others who are attacking me and parroting the administration line that we must complete the mission there — they don’t have one thing at stake.” That is the salt on the open wound, and hell hath no fury like a rightwing pundit caught in the glare of his/her own hypocritical utterances and falsehoods.

In 1864, President Lincoln personally wrote to Mrs. Bixby, who had lost all five of her sons in the Civil War. Lincoln confessed that his words might do little to heal her wounds, but nonetheless he eloquently expressed his thoughts: “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln.” Is there any doubt, if Mrs. Bixby had arrived at the White House (Lincoln didn’t take five weeks off for vacation when the nation was at war), President Lincoln would have refused to recognize and honor her presence?

In the losses of their young sons, Cindy and Mary share a common sorrow, but they also differ—Mary understood why her son had to die; Cindy does not. What is American is the right to dissent. What is un-American is to attack or to disrespect a mother, especially one who has made the ultimate sacrifice herself. Whether it is soldier who has given his/her life or the grieving mother who has lost her child, no one, no matter how mighty and righteous, has the right to denigrate them or, in the case of the mothers, what they feel they need to do. And in avoiding talking directly and honestly to Mrs. Sheehan and the hundreds of other grieving mothers of soldiers who have died in Iraq, George Bush is a cad guilty of gross disrespect and should be taken to the wood shed by his daddy.

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