Cindy Sheehan and the Shame of Inaction

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.


August 18, 2005