But I do see hope. I see hope in this country. 58% of the American public is with us. We’re preaching to the choir, but the choir’s not singing. If all of the 58% started singing, this war would end.
I got an e-mail the other day and it said, “Cindy, if you didn’t use so much profanity . . . there’s people ‘on the fence’ that get offended.”
And you know what I said? “You know what? You know what, god damn it? How in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence?”
If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out.
I’m shocked the wingnuts are doing this, because Mom is the deepest archetype of all, and Cindy Sheehan is a grieving mother. She no longer has the American sense of privilege standing guard on polite silence. Her loss and her rage have made her into that most fearsome thing: someone who feels she has nothing to lose.
Because of her, a lot of people who were sitting on the fence are seeing that George Bush is, just like she says, a lying bastard and an evil maniac. It is the extreme discomfort of this perception that is fueling some of the strident talk about Sheehan. But it will not stand.
In a by now famous address to the graduating class of MIT last year -- only last year -- E.L. Doctorow said, “I fault this president (George W. Bush) for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our twenty-one-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be.” That speech is making the rounds again in blogging circles because Cindy Sheehan is forcing the subject of George W. Bush’s relationship with death into national prominence.
From Bush on the Couch, by psychiatrist Justin Frank (pg. 13-14):
There is every reason, then, to consider George W. Bush’s drive to rid the world of dangerous people as not simply the policy judgment of a president -- but as the drive of an undernurtured and emotionally hobbled infant, terrified of confronting the dangers within his own psyche. . .
A child who is already relying too heavily on a split [black and white] worldview developed in infancy is thus especially vulnerable to the lasting impact of a sibling’s death.
When George was seven years old, his three-year-old sister Robin developed leukemia and died. The little boy only learned that his sister was sick after she was already dead. There were sudden, unexplained absences. He was just told not to play with his sister, “to whom he had grown quite close on her occasional visits home.”
What is even more eerie, is his parents’ reaction to her death (pg. 3):
Robin died in New York in October 1953; her parents spent the next day golfing in Rye, attending a small memorial service the following day before flying back to Texas. George learned of his sister’s illness only after her death, when his parents returned to Texas, where the family remained while the child’s body was buried in a Connecticut family plot. There was no funeral.
Frank paints a profile of the man that emerged from this frozen, thwarted, and punitive environment, in a chapter entitled, “The Smirk” (pg.101):
Long before he led our nation into war, George W. Bush exhibited an appetite for destruction. As a child, Bush inserted firecrackers into the bodies of frogs, lighting the fuses and blowing the creatures up. As president of his fraternity at Yale, he used a branding iron to maim young pledges. As governor of Texas, he was observed smirking over the executions of death-row inmates, many of whom were later found to have received inadequate legal protection.
The man responsible for seeing to it that the inmates received inadequate legal protection was, of course, Bush’s indispensable sidekick, Alberto “Torture” Gonzales.
So let’s go back to the two charges the right is leveling against Cindy Sheehan. Number one: she’s changed her story. What story? You can tell them it’s about feelings, but I’m afraid it’s like trying to explain color to a blind person. I guess Cindy Sheehan is now “fair game” for these sadists.
While she was mourning the death of her son over the course of the last year, she has watched the same saga of Bush administration duplicity and deceit that we have all seen unfolding. Unlike a lot of people who don’t have five minutes in the week to think about themselves, let alone politics, Cindy Sheehan was actually paying attention, looking for answers, searching for meaning.
She watched/listened/read: the 9/11 Commission Report, the Dulfer Report, the revelations of Dick Clarke and Paul O’Neill and Bob Woodward, Joe Wilson, and the Downing Street Memos. And she slowly went sane. She saw all these people for who they really are, not just W and his cohorts, but also the mighty wingnuts of the media. They don’t bother her.
Still, you have to wonder about the family environments that produce people like Bill O’Reilly, the just-shut-up man. Or Rush Limbaugh, chief apologist for the frat pranks that are Abu Ghraib. Or Tucker Carlson, who says he likes France now that he knows that it was the French government that blew up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, killing an environmental activist and he damn well won’t apologize for saying so.
These people celebrate death. They enjoy it.
But the number two charge is more important: that Cindy Sheehan’s in-laws, including her husband’s mother and father and sister, violently disagree with her and think she’s an embarrassment.” That’s rightwing code for “Dingbat.” Actually, her father-in-law used to call her Meat Head and she called him Archie.
But she hasn’t spoken to Casey’s grandparents since they voted for George Bush in 2004. What was once a joking, seemingly superficial political disagreement has become, in Cindy’s eyes since Casey’s death, an unforgivable betrayal.
I fear many of us are not singing out as Cindy urges because we do not want to strain or lose lifetime friendships over political disagreements. People in this country simply do not lose friends over politics -- but things are changing. I fear we ARE going to lose friendships. We will not only lose friends, but friends will become enemies.
We could at least honor our friends by giving them a chance to know how we feel, before it comes to that.
If you think about it, what Cindy is talking about is the peace equivalent of coming out. Coming out is the one technique that has proven successful in combating the right wing over the three decades we’ve been fighting the Culture War. It’s easy to do, it’s available to everyone, and it works everywhere. You just stop holding your tongue. Your opinion becomes expected, accepted, ubiquitous. You find, over time, that you have a lot more leverage and power, within your family, with your friends, at your job, than you might now imagine.
Espousal of any position that brooks no disagreement is anti-social behavior and ought to be treated that way.
In the gay world, there is a lot of leadership activity around encouraging people to come out. We even have a National Coming Out Day to make sure people understand how successful it is as a tactic, how personally empowering. There’s nothing like a good coming out story, because they’re all about being who you really are, and not letting anybody else define your reality.
Coming out also gives you a big insight into who other people are, which isn’t always fun. But I would maintain that it’s always better to know.
If you still aren’t willing to call a fascist a fascist, you are sitting on the fence -- and how is anybody in this country still sitting on that goddamn fence?
SING, GOD DAMN IT.
Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Sheehan Confronts Judith Miller’s War by Ahmed Amr
Other Articles by Patricia Goldsmith
the Father Part Three: Scapegoat