Sunday, December 17, 2006

" we forgive those who trespass against us." - And now comes Cindy Sheehan. After being acquitted of other charges in connection with a 2005 protest at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Ms. Sheehan was convicted last week of trespassing, as reported in the Boston Herald. We are all by now more familiar that we might have preferred with her story. Indeed, it sounded like something we’ve seen in a Sunday School play, with Ms Sheehan playing a bereft Mary, George W. Bush standing in as an aloof Pontius Pilate and Casey Sheehan as the untimely crucified Christ. By all the cherubim in heaven, everything fit, except that there will be no victory over death in this Passion. For a time, every day in Crawford, TX felt like Good Friday.

As the tale was told and retold by the apostolic media, the narrative was fixed: it became the story of an all-American boy martyred in a cause that was trumped up by a slow-witted, callous Commander-in-Chief, leaving behind a grief-stricken mother to ask why. As our minds filled in the blanks, we remember most of all that Cindy is grieving and she wants to know why it all had to happen. With no hope of Casey’s resurrection, Cindy’s overwhelming grief becomes central to the story.

Sadly for Cindy, facts are stubborn things and they only occasionally stick to the plot of a good tear-jerker. Before a fortnight passed in Crawford’s Golgotha, Ms Sheehan showed us her true aims and the means by which she would bring them to pass. She shared her thoughts about the true source of terror in the world (who else but Pontius Bush), and how “the universe” chose her as the spark of a great movement. We were reminded of her initial telling of the story of her meeting the President (at the foot of Casey’s cross if you will), with George Bush playing more of the role of Peter than Pilate.

But through it all, Cindy reminded us of the centrality of her grief. We were focused on this by design. If Cindy Sheehan where just another anti-war protester advocating a premature withdrawal from Iraq in particular and an American exit from the world stage in general, she would be stacked on the pile like another piece of cordwood. (We’ve seen the “bedraggled war protester story” before too.)

By draping herself in the sackcloth of the grieving, Cindy was hoping for a suspension of the rules of discourse. I guess she thought that we would ignore her casual lobbing of the “F-grenade” in reference to the President. Perhaps she hoped that we would not ask ourselves how “the universe” chose such an imperfect instrument to spark massive political upheaval, as she was more Patty Hearst than Rosa Parks. Maybe she vainly hoped that her media acolytes would not find out about her long stint as an anti-war activist, one minute delivering rants to ABC’s Nightline regarding “neo-con PNAC agendas” to defend Israel, and sidled up all cozy with Rep. John Conyers at the mock hearings on the Downing Street Memo the next.†

The truth that eventually came out was that far from simply being a grieving mother, Ms Sheehan had sold herself out to the likes of long before her stints as Honorary Chairwoman of the Crawford, TX Chamber of Commerce. The nature of her allegiances became more evident as Ms. Sheehan made common cause with Venezuela’s left-wing autocrat Hugo Chavez during a January 2006 appearance at the sixth annual World Social Forum in Caracas.

The stabbing irony to all of this is that if any mother’s grief warranted a suspension of the rules, it was not that of Cindy Sheehan. It would not diminish the palpability of her grief to point out that Casey Sheehan was a knowledgeable volunteer when he joined the military. Presumably he was of both sound body and mind, neither mentally deranged nor intellectually diminished. With all due respect to Ms Sheehan’s (and America’s) loss, my nominee to receive a suspension from the rules of public discourse would be another grieving mother whose story we are sadly familiar with.

While Cindy Sheehan was spared seeing the moments before her son’s death, the mother of Terri Schiavo, Mary Schindler, had to watch her daughter’s death unwind, in slow motion, for 14 years. His mother’s post-mortem remarks notwithstanding, Casey did die in pursuit of a noble and enduring cause. Even to this hour, no one can explain what was gained through the judicially-sanctioned murder of Terri Schiavo. The lasting testament to the callowness of the Left could be found in the media’s treatment of one grieving mother juxtaposed with its treatment of the other. Terri Schiavo was guilty of living an inconvenient life, so she simply had to die; the will of her mother, the rules of due process, and the expressed will of the Congress of the United States be damned. Casey Sheehan, whatever he was in life, suffered a convenient death. He will live on as a useful, if involuntary tool to bring about the will of the American Left.

The real story of Cindy Sheehan is that she is yet another useful idiot helping to bring about ends that were seen as untenable even by those who devoutly wished them to be so. No serious observer truly believed that Cindy Sheehan and her dwindling retinue were concerned one bit about peace anywhere other than their own living rooms. Can we imagine an immediate withdrawal of American and coalition troops from Iraq leading to peace there or anywhere else in the Middle East? Just as important, if the United States leaves Iraq before the mission is accomplished, whose values will be left to flourish?

The post-modern craving for convenience leads many Americans to judge this war on the basis of the sacrifice it will require. For progressives in America, this war is inconvenient because it distracts America from their “skim, no-whip lattes for everybody” agenda. Unfortunately, death goes on when America takes a holiday from guarding the freedom of others unable to do so. The dead of Kigali, Srebrenica and Halabja speak to the perils of American navel-gazing. But the mass graves of Rwanda, Yugoslavia or Iraq are nothing to Cindy or the remaining few that the Left’s imploding universe has assembled around her. Like small children, they gather together to be comforted by stories they’ve all heard before.

† As best as can reasonably be concluded, Ms. Sheehan was concerned about the influence of the scholars at the Project for the New American Century on the conduct American foreign policy. In a January 26, 1998 letter, the PNAC encouraged President Clinton to utilize his upcoming State of the Union Address to “enunciate a new strategy” with the goal of “the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.” Apparently, by Ms. Sheehan’s reasoning, PNAC wielded undue influence on both Presidents Clinton and Bush, the former having signed the act that provided an initial impetus for the latter to invade Iraq.

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