Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Sad Spectacle of Cindy Sheehan

I have read her letter of resignation and listened to the much of the commentary about America not being the country that she loves . . . fine, but this is no shock, is it? I am more struck by something in her remarks that I think is illustrative about the left and of the kind of people that such thinking attracts. Cindy said that she is abandoning her protest more because of the criticism she is getting from those within her world than from those outside of it. In her words, "The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. . . . However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used."

That is a fair enough point. It is a point that many on the right have been wondering she would absorb for a long time . . . the blowback from the mainstream Dems was inevitable. But this, in itself, is not what I find so interesting about Sheehan’s statement.

After a dissertation about her views on the nature and future of representative democracy and the merits of the two party system, she offers us this: I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

That, it seems, is the nub of the matter. Cindy does not like human nature. She actually thought that she and her friends could change it because they understand the way things ought to be better than anybody else. She is angry because she is learning that even on the left she so naively admired before she began this campaign, people are the same all around. Egos have to be massaged, money has to be made and spent, decisions have to be made, and--in the words of the Rolling Stones--you can’t always get what you want. Even if you really, really want them and even if you know you’re smarter than everybody else in the room. So Cindy has decided that the best the left has to offer in the realm of practical politics is nothing more than a warmed-over Republican. They can’t achieve the true aims of the peace movement or the real left.

We on the right, have our share of those who make similar charges about our Republican leaders--they’re sacrificing conservative ideals and so forth . . . but even among the most angry of these responses there is usually something different in the critique. There is still (usually) a recognition, somewhere, of the human problem underneath the surface of the charge and there is usually still some determination on the part of the critic to continue on and accept his lumps. But Cindy has had enough and she, like Rosie, is packing it in for a more "normal" life. At least for now. God bless her . . . I hope she gets what she needs.

Discussions - 14 Comments

Cindy Sheehan is a lunatic who couldn't find her way out of a paper bag. Lunatics aren't capable of having normal lives, whether they want them or not.

Very funny that she criticizes the movement for putting personal egos first, but in the very next sentence talks about herself in the third person. "I quit! I can't take all the big egos! Look at me! Look at me!" Pretty weird.

She isn't a lunatic. She's a bereaved woman whose son died for his country fighting a war that she disagrees with. She felt the best way to save more Americans from feeling the pain she felt at her son's loss would be to try remove American soldiers from a war she felt was unjustified and unnecessary. This makes her a lunatic how?

A lunatic? That is rather harsh. On what do you base that assessment? I actually feel kind of sorry for her. She was ill prepared for the role she found herself thrust into. And she is right that in the current environment, left and right, partisanship has replaced principle. She is also right that the Dems caved. They didn’t have the votes to override a veto. I understand that. But they went down without a whimper.

The Dems are as frightened of being called unpatriotic as the Republicans are of being called racist. I they had any spine they would undeclared war or deauthorize the use of force as Richardson has suggested.

Cindy Sheehan is a lunatic because of what she has said, the way she has behaved, and the other lunatics she has associated with. Having thrust herself into the vortex of controversy and savaged reputable public figures, she has no immunity from condemnation, indeed the harshest condemnation, just because her son died.


Your take on this really makes me sad, because I know that you believe it, and that you speak for many, many people who agree with you regarding human nature.

But you are wrong when you state

" She actually thought that she and her friends could change it because they understand the way things ought to be better than anybody else."

Cindy didn't think that she was part of a tiny minority holding a tiny secret. Instead, she understood correctly that her feelings were shared by a great many people who saw this "war" as a misguided way to spend human life.

So, while I cannot argue about the depth of her disappointment, I must argue against your characterization of her. this was not about the "few" against the "many," but rather about the "people" against the "powerful."

But, the sad part is the way that you gleefully dance on Cindy's failure to unite the factions among those who would end this war. You indicate that she now knows two things that you have known all along: (1) that people are not perfect, or even good, and (2) you can't always get what you want, even if you think it is of ultimate importance.

She was devastated by the wrongful death of her son, and tried to find a way to make it meaningful. She chose the avenue of protest, which is at least as American as are "premptive war," or "shock and awe."

If she is tired and discouraged after her struggle, I hope that there are some observers who will remember her tenacity and endurance, and remark on how long and how hard she did fight against a powerful machine. She did provide a thorn in the side of the Bush administration, and I respect her as I respect that kid who stared down the tank in Beijing in Tienanmen Square.

The only "lunatic" that I perceive is the person who cannot respect the grief of a mother, or the courage of a rebel.

Enough already. Sheehan in her own words:

"My first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full-well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by George [W.] Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agenda after 9/11."

Fung, if you buy into that you need help too.

What is PNAC?

I feel no "glee" as Fung put it over Cindy Sheehan. And I don't think she is a lunatic, exactly. I do believe that she is a seriously disturbed and troubled woman and I don't blame her entirely for so being. I cannot imagine her grief at losing her son especially if she really believes--as apparently she does--that it was for nothing. I feel sad for her that she was used by the left and that her family was torn apart as a consequence. I feel sad for her that she really seemed to believe that the "peace movement" was something genuine and devoid or ordinary human foibles. Nothing is, no matter what noble name you slap on it. A grown up woman ought to know that, even a grieving one.

So I don't think she is an innocent or that she bears none of the blame for what happened to her. Even so, I have no wish to condemn her. Or to be gleeful about what has happened to her. I understand that good judgment is hard enough to muster in ordinary times--and when grief is added to the mix along with a misguided world view . . . well. I pray for her and the many, many Americans who labor under the spell of the kind of demons that seem to plague her. I really do. I thinks she is sad. Those who used her are horrible.

Project for the New American Century.

I don't think she's crazy, just grief-striken and not very bright. The one thing I do blame her for is associating her son's good name and reputation with the tinfoil hat brigades. From what I've heard, he was a good, dedicated soldier. He shouldn't have to be remembered like this simply because his mom's a grieving dimwit. Sorry if that stings, but lots of what she has said also stings.

I wish Cindy Sheehan a good long quiet rest. Quiet both around her and from her. Specialist Sheehan will ultimately be remembered for serving his country honorably, giving the last full measure of devotion for a cause that he knew to be just; his mother's grief will be seen to be just that.

My real contempt is for Mrs. Sheehan's allies who would have p***ed on Casey if he had come back alive.

Julie, it cheers me to see such a rational analysis of Sheehan from someone on the right. Politics has been about demonizing your opponents for too long now, when it should be about disputing your opponents ideas. Thanks for that.

And to be clear, I mean BOTH sides demonize.

Thanks, piker, for your kind words. Essentially, we agree. But it should not be shocking to us that both sides demonize in political discussion. Is that anything new? Is that anything anyone is ever going to change on a mass scale? We can only check the impulse in ourselves and do our best to persuade others we know to do the same. I would caution you that making too much out of such things in politics comes dangerously close to Cindy's lamentation about the way the peace movement treated her. The worst thing I can say about Sheehan is that she is way too old to be laboring under such expectations and she ought to know better. It's normal for those 25 and under (on both sides) to be that sure their ideas will inspire legions to change their ways because they are so obviously correct. It is normal for those 25 years and under to expect only noble motives on behalf of all their allies. But in a woman of her age . . . come on. Politics is politics and people are people. Thin-skinned people and overly-idealistic people should avoid politics altogether or grow thicker skin.

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