Cindy Sheehan, A Woman for All Seasons

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The other day
the editorial page of my local newspaper included a letter to the
editor expressing bewilderment at the continued media coverage of
Cindy Sheehan's speeches and actions. The letter writer accused
the media of an anti-war or anti-Bush bias, and said that it was
time for Cindy to return to obscurity. It's not that time, and Cindy's
not going. All you have to do is look in her eyes and see the obvious
sorrow, and the absolute conviction that she is right to do what
she is doing, to know why the interviews and speeches will not stop.

This is also
the reason why Cindy Sheehan continues to get media coverage: Cindy
is for real. She's not running a game like so many of the other
public figures who cluster about her in public meetings, basking
in the celebrity and looking for an opportunity to plump for their
own rackets. What the letter writer, and those who agree with him,
fails to see is the remarkable rarity and attractiveness of a public
figure who is not only intelligent and articulate, but also is possessed
of an absolute clarity and integrity of purpose. From the first,
Cindy Sheehan has asked only for one thing from President George
Bush – a statement of the reason for the Iraq War and occupation.
She wants Bush to explain the noble cause that prompted him to send
her son Casey Sheehan to his death in that conquered and occupied
country. We all know that Bush can't do it. To George Bush, the
phrase "noble cause" is a bandage intended to cover the
wound he inflicted on Cindy Sheehan and every other mother whose
son or daughter has been killed or maimed in his pointless war.

Many interviews
with Cindy Sheehan have been published since she caught the attention
of the media during her vigil in Crawford, Texas, last August. There
is a unifying thread among the longer ones: the reporters are captivated
by her. In the October 14 issue of LA Weekly, Judith
classes Cindy's charisma with that of Bill Clinton and
Warren Beatty in an attempt to explain Lewis's own attraction to
a woman who possesses none of the artificial glamour and studied
poise that Hollywood and politics rewards with the limelight. Lewis
is wrong about Cindy, just as she demeans her subject with the comparison.
Cindy Sheehan's honest face and the depth of her sincerity simply
break through the skepticism of those who interview her. Prepared
through long experience to be both user and used in the game of
politics and public advocacy, and jaded by that past experience,
they succumb to her basic humanity.

also know that George Bush can't answer the question Cindy Sheehan
puts to him. All of his past excuses for the war and occupation
have fallen by the wayside, one by one. Bush's public speeches make
it clear that he doesn't know the answer; he lacks clarity himself.
And if the President of the United States cannot give a truthful
and coherent explanation of why he broke his oath to uphold and
preserve the Constitution of the United States by waging an undeclared
war, then Cindy Sheehan speaks for all of us in demanding that he
bring our troops home so that no more pointless casualties will
occur. In what she has done, as overused as the term is now, this
lone woman has become a modern hero. Her son's death may have been
the spur for her demand that George Bush explain his actions. The
fact that the most powerful man in the world can't do it, and runs
from her, is what keeps her in the news. Cindy Sheehan is a moral
avenger and those are rare in the public life of our time. This
is our misfortune.

17, 2005

Samuel Bostaph [send him
] is head of the economics department at the University
of Dallas.

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