Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cindy Sheehan steps back as Voice of the Anti-War Movement

Cindy Sheehan Steps Back

Celebrated and reviled, Cindy Sheehan has resigned as an active member of the anti-war movement. Her name will be attached to this war as one person who stood up, whose voice of protest was heard above others, who battled the President and camped outside of his home. And now, she will also be remembered as giving up on the battle before it was completed.

In the summer of 2005, the grieving mother of a U.S. soldier who died in Iraq the previous year put a face to – and momentum behind – anti-war protests with a simple act. She camped out by the road that led to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas and demanded to see Mr. Bush because she had a question: “What exactly did my son, Casey, die for?”

Since then she devoted her time, efforts and financial resources to protesting the war in Iraq.

That’s now behind her. In her diary on the liberal blog Daily Kos, Ms. Sheehan says she is disillusioned with both Republicans and Democrats. “I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of ‘right or left,’ but ‘right and wrong’.”

She is also fed up with the anti-war movement itself. “I . . . tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life . . . It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.” (Full entry: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/28/12530/1525)

Far from being an “attention whore,” as she says some have labeled her, Ms. Sheehan is a lot like many who suffer a devastating private loss. They go public because they desperately want to assuage their pain by doing something to make the world better – to right the wrong. They also want to believe that others who espouse similar goals and views are equally sincere.

At some point, however, Ms. Sheehan (and her cohorts) collided with the reality of the human condition. People have free will and they are ruled even more by fear than by ego.

“Good-bye America,” she concludes. “…You are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

“It’s up to you now.”

Cindy Sheehan, the face of the US anti-war movement, is calling it quits. In a rare live interview following her Memorial Day farewell message, she talks with Riz about why she is leaving the peace movement, her disillusionment with US policy and what lies ahead.

Related book:

American Mourning: The Intimate Story of Two Families Joined by War, Torn by Beliefs

"American Mourning" is a beautiful and poignant story that chronicles the divide in America over the war against terrorism. What makes this book so intriguing is that it personalizes the story by showing how 2 different American families respond to the death of their son.

It's a raw and gripping portrayal of how we mourn as a nation, and how our individualism propels us to respond to similar events in such starkly different ways. One mother, Cindy Sheehan, becomes a broken woman when her son, Casey, is killed in a war that his mother never supported. For her it becomes the cruelest form of torture that he should die for a cause she finds to be anything but just.

Contrast that to the story of Jan and Joe Johnson, who become greater patriots upon hearing news that their son Justin died. At the age of 46, Joe Johnson went so far as to re-enlist in the U.S. Army and went over to Iraq to fight - to avenge his son's death. But the best part is that the son's of these families, Casey Sheehan and Justin Johnson, become best buddies themselves while in the military. Casey dies just 6 days before Justin in the slums of Sadr City, after being ambushed by terrorist insurgents. Justin is emotionally distraught over the death of his friend. He goes online to post a message of condolence at the memorial page for Casey. It will be one of the last things Justin Johnson writes. 6 days later he himself is killed in that same city where his good friend, Casey was killed.

"American Mourning" is an honest story. It shows us both the attributes and failings of both families. That will not sit well with fans of Cindy Sheehan who have idolized this woman and created a false persona of "Mother Sheehan" - a woman of absolute moral authority who can do no wrong. The truth is somewhat different, and American Mourning chronicles her story in stark terms. At a time when Americans debate how best to fight the war on terrorism,

"American Mourning" showcases the divide in our nation in a way that is irresistible. It is impossible to put this book down - each chapter propelling the reader on to the next. This book recognizes that the ultimate heroes, those whose legacy must be remembered, are those brave men who gave their lives - Casey Sheehan and Justin Johnson - and that is what makes this book such a powerful read.

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