Cindy Sheehan, A Woman for All Seasons

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 Lewis 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.

They 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.

October 17, 2005