Cindy Sheehan and the Shame of Inaction

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Mike
Rogers is probably my wife's favorite LewRockwellite, and with good
reason. He’s simply wonderful morning reading. His
latest LRC article
voiced the essence of why I haven’t said
one word in my blog
about Cindy Sheehan’s remarkable journey that currently has her
sitting on the side of a road in Crawford, Texas. You see, Mr. Rogers
is coming in from Japan to sit with Mrs. Sheehan. As I went to work
on Monday morning I seriously considered joining them. Had I done
so, I might have been able to pick him up at the airport. But, I
didn't. Why is it that someone like me, so supposedly dedicated
to the concepts of peace, liberty and justice has spent the last
week trolling hockey websites and burying myself in the first three
Harry Potter books and not figuring out how to get to Texas and
shake the hand of a woman I've come to greatly admire?

I’ve
been a fan of Mrs. Sheehan since her first article appeared on LRC
last year. Whenever I finished one of her pieces (usually sitting
in the dark, alone, at work, with a fresh cup of coffee — my own
private vigil) I nodded silently and took a deep breath in an attempt
to hold back tears. There was always a little more effort needed
to click the mouse button on her link than some others, but I knew
I would be the worst kind of coward to ignore her, even though I
knew how reading her thoughts would turn out.

After
years of my talking about making the world a better place, Cindy
Sheehan is actually doing it, in the process making all of us connected
with the Libertarian Party, and many others in ‘the movement,’ look
like the navel-gazing blow-hards we are constantly accused of being.
Personally, my taste for any kind of political activism has been
soured by personal events of the past few months, to the point of
neglecting the only positive thing I was doing to affect the kind
of change I wished to see. Too painful, I rationalized. Too much
work, too little return, I whined. My wrists hurt from all the typing.
Whatever the excuse was it seemed like a good idea at the time….
sorta.

So
again, why today, after months of barely putting a coherent thought
on paper, am I bringing this up?

Simple.
The answer is shame.

This
past Sunday was one of those days that reminded me of just what
I have in this world, and it's a great deal more than I thought
it was. It didn’t seem like anything odd would happen when I got
up that morning. I never considered that this day would be that
much different than any other. But, it was. That morning was the
christening of my friend's second son. For a present, my wife had
spent the past couple of days sewing a blanket with a map of the
world on it, a small world indeed, while nursing a broken toe. I
blew off working on the addition to the house because of that and
a strange urge to read all day, having succumbed to the power of
J.K. Rowling. I haven’t been in a church since my grandmother died
and my friends, knowing this, hadn’t invited us directly, not because
of any painful associations but that neither of us is terribly religious
and they figured we wouldn't be interested. They had, however, invited
my mother because they knew she would want to be there, which was
an absolutely brilliant gesture. They were right, of course, as
she was absolutely delighted to go, saying over and over that it
was so great to go to something as a family that wasn’t a funeral.
She’s buried a lot of people in the last twelve years. There are
only the widows and my cousins left on my father's side of the family.

When
I told my wife about the christening she asked me why we weren't
going, and I honestly didn't have an answer for her. I just didn't
think about it. Thoughtless? Probably. I'm guilty of that more often
then I'd like to admit. Then she looked at me and said, "If
it's important to them, shouldn't it be important to us?" She
was right, of course, "Well, then I guess we need to get them
something," I said. She, of course, handled that with all of
her predictable competence.

When
we got there I was drafted into looking after his elder boy, who
is a couple of months short of three, in case he got bored. Sure
enough less than 2 minutes into the service he and I left at his
behest and proceeded to spend the next hour playing with cars and
reviewing his letters and colors. He calls me, “Mr. Tom.” We had
a fantastic time. He’s a wonderful little boy, who makes his parents
very proud and well they should be. After lunch with his family
we went home to laze the day away. On the way home I knew it would
have been shameful for me to have missed this.

Later,
another friend and his fiancé knocked on the door without
warning, having just gotten back from her family reunion in Wisconsin.
They had brought ‘cheese curds’ and they were good. As I said, they’re
getting married in a couple of months (and it’s about time, if he
hadn’t proposed soon I was going to do it for him!), and strangely
enough, I’m going to be the best man. My mom has been bemoaning
the fact that she will be in New York on the same day being the
sponsor to her youngest grandson's confirmation. Again, saying that
it's a shame because there are so few opportunities to celebrate
that we should take every opportunity to cherish them.

When
he asked me to be his best man I said yes without hesitation (I’ve
been given the choice of a Tux or a Kilt… well, that was easy.)
knowing that he doesn’t make these decisions lightly, but was taken
aback all the same. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years but there’s
always been a little antagonism between us, healthy, I would guess.
It’s a very long story and a complicated relationship, but a strong
one built on respect for each other’s character (if not each other’s
worldview). His relationship with his family is more than admirable,
it's envious. On the other hand mine has been, at best, tenuous.
I guess you can say we’re living proof that friends can disagree
about most everything, except whiskey, but still remain friends.
We’re all family to each other in our own strange way. And, it would
have been shameful of me to turn him down for any self-perceived
inadequacy.

And
that’s the point of this: Family. I’ve had a lot of that this year,
with my mom moving in at the head of my driveway, the endless procession
of sibling visits, and having been found by a long-lost friend (he's
family too) from high school who, by my account, has become a far
better man than I have. We all have our differences about how things
are being handled politically but regardless of how strongly we
feel about each other’s opinion we’re still family. We still have
that luxury. Cindy Sheehan, on the other hand, does not, and is
reminding us just what the costs of war are and what it is to put
your trust in someone who doesn’t know you at all, who isn’t your
family. This point is underscored every day when I go to work and
I see my friend and co-worker who happens to be Iraqi. I'm reminded
of the pride with which he talks about his children and there's
that ever-so-slight twinge of shame.

Relationships
such as these are born of both time and effort. They thrive on the
exchange of real information, something our politics are dangerously
lacking in, and die from a dearth of. They are the most precious
of commodities, and Mrs. Sheehan's growing movement in central Texas
is generating more wealth than any number of bombs or guns or speeches
could ever dream of. Out of the horror of her son's death she is
trying to create something new. She's certainly braver and stronger
than I am to even contemplate it, no less act as she has. By doing
so she has created bonds with people she will never meet, but who
will never forget her, even after her stand in Crawford, Texas comes
to its conclusion, regardless of its outcome.

The
justifications for this war are like the Boggart in J.K. Rowling's
books, reflective of what each of us fears most, but itself scared
of our derision. Nothing good can ever come from actions arising
out of fear. Fear doesn't create friends; it separates them. In
the same way war doesn’t build relationships; it destroys them.
It doesn't create friendships; it keeps them from ever having been.
It is not an opportunity, but rather an opportunity cost. For a
man who supposedly has an education in business George Bush has
shown a complete ignorance of why the customer is always right.
His refusal to meet with her is a testament that he doesn't understand
this basic human function: how to make and keep friends. He lives
in fear of being ridiculed by Cindy Sheehan, and like the Boggart,
will continue to change his reasons for why we need to be fearful
and stay the course.

So
far thousands of Iraqi and over 1800 American families have been
torn apart over our fears, while, thankfully, mine has not…. Yet.
Because something else happened this weekend that I'd nearly given
up hope of happening. My wife, having returned from food shopping
on Saturday, came into the bedroom with my bottle of The Macallan
and one glass with a huge smile on her face. After a few minutes
of confusion on my part (I've been forbidden to drink at all for
the past 2 months as abstinence is supposed to help) and asking,
"How?" and, "But, I thought…?" and, "Are
you sure," she finally showed me the little test kit, which
revealed the truth. I guess I won't be blowing off working on the
addition this weekend.

So,
now what? Tomorrow I'm going to have the same decision I had this
morning, turn left or right. Mike Rogers is on his way, and while
I'd love to be there, I hope Mrs. Sheehan will understand and forgive
my absence. But, I think it's high time that we all stand with her
and welcome her into our families, because, there is no nobler a
cause than creating a family, it's the least we can do. Nothing
more worth u2018straying off course' for. No higher calling. For me
it started today, with a donation,
I'll see what I have strength for tomorrow. I know one thing, though,
I know I'm not afraid.

Ta,

August
18, 2005

Thomas
Luongo [send him email]
is a professional chemist, amateur economist, and obstreperous Southerner-in-training
in North Florida. See
his website
.

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