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Saturday, June 02, 2007

America's Braveheart: Cindy Sheehan

The Democrats have sold out completely to the continuation of the war.

Cindy Sheehan has turned away from her leadership role within the antiwar movement. Who could blame her? She'd been labelled an "attention whore" by a poster on the website democraticunderground.com.

This from Sheehan's "resignation letter":
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

All the obstacles Sheehan has faced, it's hardly likely that a single posting--made, according to editor David Allen of DU, by a regular member and not some troll--would dissuade her from her purpose which is to stop the war. {Editor's Note: I did have issues trying to link to DU, which had clustered Sheehan's letter and Allen's response, which have since disappeared and been buried in the site.}

Sheehan's contributions have been immense. In trying to confront the President, she embodies accountability for the decision to go to war, and connects the decisions of the powerful with their impact on regular folks.

With solid writing skills, Cindy's passion for her cause (one I've made my own) have made her an effective communicator, and the media attention made into a celebrity. Sheehan was not seeking fame by castigating Bush and the war: she simply wanted more than an apology from the President for his decision to send her son to his death.

Sheehan never meant to turn her son's death into a political liability for the administration but rather wanted the war to end and wasn't above creating political havoc in order to reach her goal.

When Democrats voted for the war funding, Sheehan's inherently apolitical position came through when she attacked what is known as the "War Party"--a non-partisan political advocacy group for the continuation of wars in general.

Following the money trail leads to corruption in both parties. In this respect, government expenditures are the perfect vehicle to solicit war support from politicians regardless of party affiliation.

The $20 billion in government pork accompanying the recent war bill greased enough palms to see its passage and thus more death and a continuation of the status quo, which at this point is worsening violence without an end in sight.

Just to recap, my position against the war is supported by libertarian beliefs that wars in general are the product of a State thats seeks to empower itself by asserting its control over the resources and people over which it governs.

The whole notion of government by the people has been dead in Washington for decades, corresponding with a radical increase in State power and control over the lives of individuals.

Wars are called the ultimate expansion of State power because of the money spent, the reallocation of resources to military-industrialists who profit from war and thus lobby the State for more. As wars expand, they tend to suck in ever more resources and people, and the loss of lives, particularly draftees, is the most ruthless expression of State authority over the individual, risking their lives in battle with a foe not of their choosing.

Opponents to war are really enemies of a larger State. Partisans may be offended when Cindy Sheehan scolds Democrats, but she has been saying all along that her purpose is not to get Bush--although it may have seemed that way--but rather to end the war through whatever non-violent means available.

Sheehan represents the rebellion of the individual against the State--in particular the way government expends lives for its own purposes. Our humanity is grossly devalued by war. Our society suffer not only a physical losses but moral depravity as well, as the people who die are so often innocents, deemed "collateral damage." Our sense of morality must be tied to our willingness to tolerate war, all of which end up devaluing human life and dignity.

We may think that wars are only a problem for the other guys, but we suffer as well. We all lose when our government sends our young people off to war. We suffer from the inhumanity of war.

Post-conflict, our veterans are the most visible victims. Over 50,000 Vietnam veterans took their lives subsequent to that conflict--untreated Post-traumatic Stress Disorder likely contributed. Over 1/3 of Gulf War I veterans are on full disability--Depleted Uranium might be the cause. And the emotional trauma faced by mothers who lose their children fills countless buckets of tears and shatters millions of families.

Sheehan's mission has been so uplifting because she's been focused on making leaders in our government pay for their decisions. She lobotomized the State, mocked it, showed the flaws of its political leaders, and demands accountability from the institutions that run war, and questioned their methods and priorities.

An activist of Sheehan's caliber could only be a mother. The loss of her son Casey has been a well-spring source of motivation, deep but not infinite. It's the strength of Sheehan's belief that amazes us and sets an laudable example of public service and a commitment to cause.

Sheehan was convinced her son's death could have been prevented with better equipment or, more effectively, by not going into Iraq in the first place. Rather than mourn her son's loss in solitude, she turned it into a source of motivation. Rather than close doors to a society that has taken her child, she has confronted our passivity, forcing all Americans to consider the consequences of war.

She's been arrested repeatedly trying to confront those who've sent our young people to war--regardless of their party affiliation. Like all activists with true passion, Sheehan has problems distinguishing reasonable legal boundaries from unreasonable impositions on dissent.

Better that antiwar activists chafe against the law then the status quo go on unchecked. I think many in the antiwar movement protest from the comfort of their keyboards like Sheehan says. While we may not have to get out in the heat, or face arrest, we also aren't as effective as we could be--resistance is atomized, hardly as contentious (and change-inducing) as nonviolent personal confrontation.

To be truly effective the antiwar movement needs people who are willing to take risks. In her April article "10,000 Mother of a March" Sheehan quotes Jeanette Rankin, a Vietnam War protest movement leader who said "If we had 10,000 mothers willing to go to prison, we could end the war."

Sheehan was one of the first but she won't be one of the last mothers to lose sons or daughters to this war. Many will bear their loss in silence. Expecting these people to vocalize their dissent and confront the policymakers is simply too much to ask of them, considering their loss.

Sheehan's strength comes from an invisible sun that is really in all of us, hidden like some inner reactor granted us by God, waiting for some trigger to turn loose the good pure energy of its light on the world.

Sheehan may be long gone from the public stage before her impact can truly be measured. I can't help but think of the movie Braveheart where William Wallace had been drawn and quartered yet the example he'd set lived on. The Scottish lords had set to fighting amongst themselves until Wallace set them straight, culminating in the final scene where Robert the Bruce faces the English at Bannockburn.

The modern-day equivalent might be the unfocused opposition to the war. Some want to fight Bush and the Republicans, thinking the Democrats represent the best way to end the war. Rather than fighting the powers to be, Wallace fought the system, most notably the status quo among Scottish lords that led them to make deals with the English, thus allowing them to divide and conquer.

It wasn't the individual lords that were Wallace's greatest problem, it was their lack of fight. When we lack fight, we make easy victims and victims of the Iraq War all Americans are. It's the lack of resistance, the restraints on taking action which we impose on ourselves that perpetuates the problem or in this case the war.

Sheehan may have left the stage, but the idea of resisting the State and the supporting political structure that advocates war will be her legacy. She stands as a symbol of resistance to the dehumanization of war. And we should never mourn her absence because it attests to the limits of human endurance in fighting the State and bloodthirsty machine that benefits through war; instead we should honor Sheehan's unfathomable contributions.

Cindy gave it all she had. Her resignation testifies to her endurance, to have achieved all she has, going so far beyond the emotional and physical limits faced by someone who carries a burden as heavy as losing their child.

Sheehan's case should lead us to acknowledge the emotional burdens that mothers in mourning carry. And Sheehan's case is an example of the kind of people America needs: people who stand up for their beliefs.

Other mothers will come to the movement having lost their children. Their impact will be immense.

Mothers like Sheehan who've suffered the loss of a child will fight to protect other mothers' children from the fate that their children will face in Iraq. In this they are heroes, and public servants to the thousands of American families who children are at the mercy of the war for as long as it continues.

What we really need is mothers who fight to avoid suffering the same fate, before their children die, who believe that supporting the troops means keeping them safe and out of harm's way. If 10,000 of these mothers or mothers-to-be said that Iraq is over, stood up in unison, demonstrated in peace and solidarity, Iraq would be over.

The more successful the antiwar movement becomes, the less war there will be, the fewer Casey Sheehans we will have, and the less need there will be for mother/activists like Cindy Sheehan. There is a law in physics that says every force will be met by a opposing force of equal strength; the same could be said for politics and support for war.

Media and Politics--Diverting, Averting

Fixation on the upcoming Presidential election has led the public away from holding Bush and his party accountable here and now for their policies in Iraq.

The mainstream media has defined the public debate by offering intensive coverage over 2008 candidates. Obama and Hillary have already achieved celebrity status, with Guiliani not far behind.

This from Jason Miller:

"While a majority of US Americans now vehemently oppose the Bush administration and its abominable war, too many of us still believe that both are anomalies which will be “corrected” once we “elect” a new cast of characters to take the political reins in 2008."

Politics have become pre-packaged entertainment affairs stage-managed from start til end. American politics has gone the same way as our mass consumption lifestyle--towards the seduction and corruption of consumerism, or in this case our politics.

The tale behind the walls of power is one of mammoth corporate influence. The administration is rife with former Big Oil corporation representatives. One former oil industry lobbyist has been described as being on temporary leave from Exxon Mobil as he'd gone back to work for Exxon the day after quitting his White House job. Stock prices and profits for most Big Oil companies have tripled since March, 2003.

Whenever corporations are allowed to set the public agenda, news quality suffers. The media conglomerates have a vested interest in dumbing down, in keeping their audience more fixated on Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan than the real world.
Allan Uthman writes for Alternet on the "Pageant-like Presidential Coverage."

Watching the media as I do, I've noticed the absence of substantive coverage on political issues. The larger issue is clearly how relatively unaware the bulk of Americans are concerning the absence of coverage on issues and events affecting their lives.

Some people suffering from celebrity fixation are personally affected by celebrity tragedies like the recent death of a buxom Playmate in the Bahamas, whose name quite fairly escapes me. To be emotional puddy before one's TV screen is great for advertizers but a disaster if it distracts people from things that matter.

Atomized, cocooned, we tend to personalize our relationships with things and people on TV. There's a natural human tendency to believe that the objects of our attention care about our obsession with them when in fact they are passive recipients of our affection--friends only in our imagination.

Spending on average 4 1/2 hours a day watching TV, the opinions of millions of Americans are constantly being shaped, often without the awareness of the viewer. Rather than lifting high the value of political opinion and debate--which encourage participation in the political process--TV has truncated talk on the issues and grossly degraded the perceived value of holding political opinions and expressing them publicly.

Shows like Crossfire were hardly fun to watch, but for people who care, the utter absence of any meaningful political debate bodes ill for the future of this country. Better that people have opinions, and are willing to share them, than to ignore all political debate as being divise. Differences of opinion threaten the universal appeal of television; for marketing reasons, confrontation is to be avoided.

If corporations can't make money from political coverage, they'll simply eliminate it. The dumbing down of political news may be so complete and pervasive that pageant-like coverage is the only alternative acceptable to media conglomerates.

If Americans knew how many important issues were being habitually ignored by mainstream media, they would undoubtedly reconsider the benefits of media consolidation, and perhaps even require more substantive political coverage or even some form of divestiture. As long as Americans aren't aware of the opportunity cost of lost awareness and information on key issues, they don't realize anything's missing, which ultimately empowers media companies to shape opinion all the more on the issues they do cover, and practice censorship by omission turning urgent issues into non-issues.



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