Cindy Sheehan, bereaved mother of U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan turned anti-war protester, announced on Memorial Day, May 29, that she was through as the name and face of the peace movement that grew around her outspokenness. In an open letter posted on the Daily Kos political blog, Sheehan explained the reasons behind her resignation, for lack of a better word.
Agree or disagree with Sheehan, she’s yet the latest example of the maxim, “You can’t fight City Hall.”
For me to jump on the Cindy Sheehan bandwagon at this point would be disingenuous on my part. I never faulted her for reacting to her son’s death the way she did, though I often wondered if she was prepared to endure the personal assaults once the decision was made to go public with her grieving. And I felt it was either naive or disingenuous for her to wonder at the attacks that did come when she assumed the role of public presidential protester. Camping outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch in protest for 29 days, appearing with the likes of Michael Moore and Martin Sheen, and putting herself front-and-center of the anti-war movement could not have come without personal cost. I’m sure she knew, but not the degree. Now it seems the pressures of living life as a political icon finally wore down the formerly unknown soldier’s mother from Northern California.
The last words of her letter are the ones that I find most compelling. “Good-bye America …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,” Sheehan wrote. “It’s up to you now.”
Those are tired, sad words. The last words of innocence, chained to the stake, as fire is put to stick and straw. No matter your politics, this must be regarded as a sad day. Whenever an idealist gives up, a part of America dies.
Cindy Sheehan didn’t give up because she suddenly stopped believing hers is a just cause, she gave up because she realized the very people she believed would stand with her and help her achieve victory were less interested in doing what they felt was right for the country than in doing what was right for themselves. That’s a lonely place to be.
In Braveheart at the Battle of Falkirk there’s a turning point when Sir William Wallace, idealist leader of the Scottish rebellion against the English and King Edward the Longshanks, is betrayed by the Scottish nobles. Acting in self interest, the nobles assemble on the field of battle, but ride away to leave Wallace and his men without the support they need to achieve a victory victory that seems within reach. We learn they’ve been offered land and titles in trade for their treachery, but in the scene following the battle Robert the Bruce, tormented by his betrayal of William Wallace, confronts his leprous father who manipulated the previously irresolute heir to the throne of Scotland:
I have nothing. Men fight for me, because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and their children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk, they fought for William Wallace, and he fights for something that I’ve never had. And I took it from him when I betrayed him and I saw it in his face on the battlefield, and it’s tearing me apart.
For Cindy Sheehan, who right now feels betrayed by the Democrat Party, the price of her undoing was the status quo. The Democrats whose rented principle achieved a Congressional majority in Washington, D.C. by riding the anti-war groundswell in November of 2006 now feel it is time to look elsewhere for their political fortunes. To carry the Bravehart metaphor forward, Sheehan’s Scottish nobles are every elected representative in Congress lacking the guts to stand on principle and serve the people who voted them into office; are every elected representative in Congress who feel more loyalty to party than to country and Constitution; are every elected representative in Congress making a decision to work for re-election rather than uphold their Oath of Office.
I feel bad for Cindy Sheehan tonight, and for idealists everywhere who, outside the public eye, have reached the same conclusion she did. For her sake, for their sakes, and for the sake of the country we need a Robert the Bruce who recognizes their error, and who makes a decision to stand for right and to, as the Bruce eventually concludes, “never be on the wrong side again.”
Editor’s Note: Cindy Sheehan has attracted attention from Spot-on readers before today. Here’s Chris Nolan on the protests in Crawford.