Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thank You Cindy Sheehan

"Good Riddance Attention Whore"
By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor

Tuesday 29 May 2007

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don't find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don't see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person's heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey's brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won't work with that group; he won't attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children's children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It's for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too ... which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America ... you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it.

It's up to you now.


Jason Nabewaniec said...

What Are YOU Going to Do Now?
This is Not a Story About Cindy Sheehan

This is not a story about a woman who raised four children, sent one off to war, and collapsed one day in a fit of screaming at the news that he was dead.

This is not a piece to describe how that woman tried to stay awake for the next three days so as not to have to scream like that again after waking and then remembering that news.

There will be no attempt in this piece to comprehend the maddening indecency of the overgrown frat-boy president who sent her son to kill and die for lies and still had the gall to call her "Mom" and sits day after day -- to this day -- as the self-appointed, unrestrained king of the world.

This is not a piece about a woman who exposed her grief and her rawest nerves, who sacrificed a twenty-nine year marriage and time with her remaining children, to a country calloused to the daily loss of life and succeeded in stirring many to their feet, into the streets, and to the tops of their lungs.

This is not a piece about how this woman parked herself in the dusty heat of a ditch in Texas and said yes to enough speaking engagements and phone calls from soldiers and late nights with grieving parents to send her own life teetering near its edge because she couldn't live with herself if she didn't give everything she could to prevent another mother from having to experience the loss that she knew.

This piece is not even about how her loss and her grief were not confined to her son, but extended each day further, to include the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and further yet, to those cast in the impoverished margins of our planet -- including the thousands of children dying each day from starvation -- as the U.S. obscenely spends hundreds of billions on constructing and deploying the machinery of mass death.

Nor is this about the millions who learned this woman's name, whose hearts broke with hers, but whose spirits were lifted and consciences were challenged by the way she seized the moral high ground and much of the spotlight from the world's biggest liars and most pitiless killers because she was right and she was fearless -- to hell with the odds.

This piece isn't even simply about a culture that demonizes and attacks such a person, that makes their every word or slightest gesture grist for the dishonest mill of the small-minded bloggers, the jones for cruelty of the war-planners, and fascist propagandizing of the major media mouthpieces.

Nor is this about a society that props up mothers as "keepers of the flame," a counter-balance meant to excuse the war-makers, only to turn on them and call them "whores," should they dare to do more than weep silently.

This is not merely about this woman's refusal to be corralled into "realistic" and empire-bound strategies like timetables or phased-redeployment, about her righteous refusal to excuse the funding of the war, about her simple and righteous insistence that the slaughter and torture of human beings stop right now.

And, no, this is not mainly about the many questions that she herself ran up against and has put straight up in front of the movement and that all too many don't want to speak to. Like why the Democrats won't bend to the will of the people, or what kind of system only allows for two sides of the pro-war position, or what to do about an American people who are well on their way to becoming Good Germans. Those questions are crucial and agonizing and there are answers to them that can be found or forged. And there is a need for a movement that encourages the debate to rage around these questions and insists on honestly and unsparingly confronting reality. A movement that insists on getting to, and telling the people, the truth.

No, throwing up your hands is never the right response. But to be perfectly honest, this piece is not about what Cindy Sheehan should be doing. Not when really there are 300 million other people in this country who each morning wake up with profound choices to make ­ and who make them every day, whether they know it or not.

So, no, this article is not about Cindy Sheehan.

This article is about you.

Reading on your computer screen. Smudging black ink off the newsprint in your hands. Breathing in and out, your chest rising even as the chests of other human beings who happen to have been born atop huge reservoirs of oil fall still, as their breath is stolen, as their land is ravaged, as their girls learn to fear their budding breasts and widening hips under the leer of the occupier's eye, as their fathers lose their minds trying to comprehend the life-danger they've become to their own children for being of a different religion than their mother, as the psyche and politics and view of what kind of world is possible of a whole country and region is forever marked by the apparent indifference of way too many Americans to their sustained destruction as millions who are also heart-sick flirt with the devastating and impermissible comfort of throwing up their own hands and looking away from the war zone

This article is about you -- because frankly, there is not enough space and not enough time and not enough ink and not enough trees to make enough paper to hold all the ways that the roadblocks hit by a woman like Cindy are a sign of failure. Not of the failure of the possibility for change, nor the failure of those who put everything on the line to make all this stop, but the failure of a society that does not cherish and have room for a woman like her. And the failure of continuing on a course that does not fundamentally challenge the killing confines of the choices this system puts before us.

So, again, this is about you -- whether you will hide behind and resign yourself because of the faltering of another or whether you will step into the breech.

This article is about what you think about and do when you wake up each morning. About whose lives you value and prioritize. About whether it is sufficient to register disapproval or whether you are responsible for stretching your limits, risking friendships and family if you must, confronting discomforting truths about this political system, and whether you will dare to inspire and challenge and set an example of living for and impacting something bigger than yourself.

This is about whether you know enough and have seen enough of other people's sons and daughters dying in the service of empire to say without equivocation that all this must halt. This is about whether you will plunge into and confront the dead-ends that have led so many to disorientation -- whether you will look deeper, consider radical solutions, even ones you might once have dismissed.

And, yes, it can seem at times like we are hurling our soft bodies and our embattled dreams up against cold rock, and like the forces aligned against us are made of impenetrable marble. But marble has fissures and faultlines and cracks deep beneath the surface and these can be located and the marble itself can be pried apart by the determined action of millions who dare. So I am struck again with the truth and the enormity of our choices captured in the final words of the World Can't Wait Call: "History is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US."

The war is still wrong.

What are you going to do?

Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution Newspaper and sits on the Advisory Board of The World Can't Wait ­ Drive Out the Bush Regime. She can be reached at: sunsarasworld@yahoo.com

Jason Nabewaniec said...


*Rabbi Lerner Responds to Cindy Sheehan's Resignation*

Posted Wednesday, May 30 2007

I've contacted Cindy Sheehan to ask her to reconsider her
decision, but I certainly understand much of what she is talking
about in her note describing her decision to leave activism.

When I invited Cindy Sheehan to speak at my synagogue, I was
deluged by people telling me that she was an anti-Semite. When I
invited her to speak at our Network of Spiritual Progressives
conference in D.C., again I was deluged by communications from people
telling me that her motives were impure, that she was just wanting to
get publicity, that she was an opportunist, and that I was hurting
our own credibility by having her speak.

I didn't give credence to any of that because the same and worse
has been said about me, so I always suspect that anyone receiving
that amount of personal negativity is either really bad, or, as I
found out in personal contact with Sheehan, someone who has so much
goodness and decency
and idealism pouring out of her, mixed with righteous indignation,
that s/he elicits fear, anger, competitiveness and a desire to
eliminate her from public life even by people who agree with her.

Peter Gabel and I have analyzed in Tikkun the way that a hopeful
movement or leader often unleashes a complex of feelings, partly of
hope, but partly of fear. People remember, either consciously or
unconsciously, moments earlier in their lives in which they opened
themselves to love, kindness, generosity or hope, and then were
deeply disappointed when it was not reciprocated in kind, or when
they actually felt humiliated for making themselves vulnerable.

Fear that that humiliation or deep disappointment may happen again
leads many to defend themselves against such an outcome by doing
everything they can to negate the feelings of hope that are being
elicited by a hopeful movement or a leader who is hopeful. Sometimes
this will manifest in "acting-out" at a meeting, insisting that "the
plan" (whatever it is) cannot possibly work, or that there is no
evidence that it will, or that everyone who is involved in the
project at hand is really missing the point, or that there is the
wrong leadership (the people providing it are deficient in their
sensitivity to racism, sexism, homophobia, egotism, process,
psychological sensitivity, people who are physically challenged and
otherly-abled, or some other similar fault in them). Or they will
attack the leadership personally ("she is just out for power") or
they will attack the underlying ideology even though they knew what
it was before joining this particular group. Or they will complain
that a fabulous and brilliant teacher or speaker is speaking too
long, or that the emails are too long to read--even though they often
read books with less substance that are longer or listen to dumb
television programs or movies for much longer. People are endlessly
inventive in ways to protect themselves from feeling the humiliation
that they fear might come back if they were to allow themselves to
hope or to believe and work for a world of love, and then act
lovingly toward fellow members of their movement or the leadership of
the movement.

People tell me that they believe most of my generation "sold
out" after the 60s because they wanted the material advantages of the
society. But in my experience the most talented, caring, sensitive
and creative people I met in movement activities, particularly those
who were willing to take the extra personal risks involved in
becoming leadership and spokespeople for peace and justice, left the
Left not because of a desire for material success, but because they
felt abused by others on the Left and in the liberal world who, while
agreeing with their ideas, nevertheless found ways to be inhumane,
insensitive, and put-downish to others in their movement.

Rumors were spread that claimed that the most idealistic of these
people were "really" just out for power, fame or ego-gratification of
some sort, and that undercut the effectiveness of these leaders
because others responded to them not by listening to their ideas, but
by treating them as suspect because of "what they had heard."

Few of those who spread these negative stories really bothered to get
to know the people about whom they gossiped, and few ever bothered to
acknowledge how destructive this behavior was. But for those who were
the objects of this kind of abuse, the feeling of being undercut by
people who should have been allies caused personal pain and eventual
despair that anything really could ever change. A few of us hung in
and remain involved, in my case at least sustained by a personal
spiritual practice, but for each 60s activist still involved, there
are thousands who are not, who could not stand this way of being
treated, and who, when they stick their nose into the dynamics of the
present movements of the first decade of the 21st century, quickly
discover the same kind of dynamics operating in the Left and in the
liberal world.

I've written about this in my book Surplus Powerlessness and
in The Left Hand of God, so I'll only say that here in the case of
Cindy Sheehan, once again, this movement has pushed away a very
decent and ethically-motivated fighter for peace and justice. I only
wish I could promise her that she would not experience again the pain
that I and others personally experience every day in being involved
in social change movements that do not show adequate caring for their
activists and leaders.

I'm happy to report that this is not the dynamic in the Network
of Spiritual Progressives, and that I'll do everything I can to make
sure that it never becomes the dominant reality here. Our spiritual
framework, our willingness to talk openly about love, and about the
need for compassion for all the ways that each of us fails to be an
embodiment of our highest values (including, of course, me and other
leaders of our movement) helps a lot. Our message pulls for a more
gentle way to be with each other.

But, that's no guarantee: I've watched people verbally beat each
other up over who is not compassionate enough? i.e. When people have
an unconscious fear and need to protect themselves from opening up to
a world of love, they can turn the very idea of love or compassion
into a weapon to hurt each other. Nothing protects us but our
constant awareness and rededication to embody our values as much as
we possibly can, and to be gentle with ourselves and others when we
fail in this.

There is another element in Cindy's story that isn't really under our
control. The Democratic Party has within it some very idealistic
people. But it also has many "realists" who have decided that the
only way they can accomplish their idealistic goals is to work within
the parameters of "realism" set by the elites of wealth and power who
control funding for campaigns and own the media. Such people, often
because they want to accomplish something very good and decent like
ending the war, feel that they must distance themselves from the most
idealistic people who have put their bodies, reputations, future
chances for employment or money on the line and taken to the streets
to challenge the system. Those who do so are often quoted by the
media only when it sounds as if they are saying something
unreasonable or extreme. and then the "realists" working inside the
Democratic Party or the Congress or the liberal media feel that their
own chances of influencing events will be weakened if they are
identified with the more seemingly "extreme" statements of those who
have been most courageous in challenging irrational and destructive

So the "realists" try to distance themselves from the idealistic
activists, often by putting down the very people who were the first
to respond to the ethical crises--the shall we call them "prematurely
ethical people." So, the "realists" make it harder for the ethically
sensitive activists who first recognized the ethical crisis (and were
willing to take personal risks to talk about it) to function
politically or be taken seriously by anyone who hasn't personally
encountered them.

Democrats who actually do agree with ethically motivated activists
end up distancing or even attacking us, or making off-handed remarks
to the media whose import is "stay away from her or him--they are too
irresponsible or extreme or flaky."

The irony is that the people whom the realists dismiss this way are
often the very people whose writings and formulations were what broke
through the ethical deadness of the "realists" and made them aware of
the need to change policies.

But instead of honoring those who are first out there, the realists
instead resent these "prematurely ethical" people and diss them
whenever possible, insisting that it is only they, the realists, who
can make any real changes in the society. Imagine how disappointing
it was to millions of activists when MoveOn began to talk the
language of the realists and defend the Democrats for trying to work
out compromises with Bush and then eventually capitulating to fund
the war. We know how disappointed we were when we couldn't get Move
On to send out our message about the Global Marshall Plan and our
alternative strategy to end the war. "Spiritual" ideas are also
"unrealistic" to the realists, and so they ignore or put us down. And
yet, the very ideas that we advance today will be those that in a few
years these same people will be telling you that "they always agreed
and supported these same goals." Meanwhile, people like Cindy Sheehan
get batted around till it's hard to remain in that kind of vulnerable
public position.

Blessings to all who continue to struggle, each in their own
ways, as Cindy Sheehan certainly will, for peace, justice, generosity
and love to prevail on our planet.

Rabbi Michael Lerner