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Wednesday August 17, 2005

I couldn't have said it better: Jesse Kornbluth's thoughts on Cindy Sheehan

It's probably not kosher to steal an entire article/blog entry from another website, but I couldn't hack this up and just quote some lines. It has to be read from beginning to end.

From the Swami Uptown blog, August 15th, 2005:

Richard Herrin, a Yale student, killed his Yale girlfriend, Bonnie Garland, in the bedroom of her parents' home in Westchester, New York. She was going to date other guys, so he smashed her head with a hammer as she slept. I sat with her father and mother for hours and hours as they struggled to explain what it meant to lose a child.

A few years later, I read about the murder of Johnny Pius, 13 years old and an only child. He had been beaten in a Long Island schoolyard, and then six rocks were stuffed down his throat. I sat with his mother for hours and hours as she struggled to explain what it meant to lose a child.

A few years after that, I wrote a small piece about an 18-year-old New Yorker who had died of cancer. And, again, I sat with a mother as she struggled to explain what it meant to lose a child. A few months later, I sat with her again--her 17-year-old daughter had been killed by a drunk hit-run driver. This woman had, in 18 months, lost two of her three children. I leave it to your imagination to picture what it was like to sit with her the second time.

And then there was Beulah Mae Donald, of Mobile, Alabama. Her 18-year-old-son Michael had been lynched by some Ku Klux Klansmen. Somehow the local cops couldn't find evidence to arrest them, but Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, had found a way to sue them, and, on Mrs. Donald's behalf, he had won all the Klan's assets and bankrupted the organization. I sat with Mrs. Donald in the living room of her apartment in an Alabama housing project for hours and hours as she took me through her son's murder and its aftermath, and how she had, right from beginning, turned her grief over to Jesus and how, now that she had some money, she was going to give it away to people who were hurting worse than she was. Can you imagine?

Those of you who have read this column from the beginning can guess one reason I kept writing magazine pieces about children who die and the parents who survive them--when I was 4, I was on the short list of kids to be kidnapped and killed. Luckily for me, the killer realized my parents weren't rich. Unfortunately for a boy named Bobby Greenlease, his parents were obviously wealthy, and so he was chosen for the kidnapping and the murder. I have always felt that I'm here by a stroke of great luck; clearly, I've always wondered what happens when a family is not so lucky.

But as a journalistic impulse, I also see this: I'm curious how people survive that which might well kill them. Because there's nothing more unnatural than the death of a child. To put that small coffin in the ground and live on--how do people do that? To be more specific: How does a mother of a dead child go on, having carried that child in her belly and fed it from her breast?

In my time as a witness to the unthinkable, I developed a deep admiration for these parents. Their bravery was breathtaking. Sometimes they wept or cursed or shared inappropriate memories because they were out of control and using me as a therapist--no matter, I thought those parents were just as noble as the mothers and fathers who nobly suppressed their tears so they could better tell me their child's story.

In my last marriage, I helped raise some stepchildren I love as if they are my own, and I would come home from these reporting stints weak with gratitude to see them sleeping peacefully in their beds. And now, as many of you know, in this final marriage, there is a child in the household, and the joy of that is indescribable--as is the dread of what it would be like to lose her. Those of you who are parents know what I'm talking about; those who are not can, I hope, empathize.

It is largely because I always see situations in human terms that I have, from the beginning, opposed the Iraq war. Like all conflicts of this kind, it is not about soldiers fighting soldiers; it is about demoralizing the civilian population. And that means killing civilians. The 'insurgents' have a special gift for this. But we're not exactly bad at it, as families who get it wrong at Iraqi checkpoints have learned the hard way.

And then, of course, there are our soldiers, some of them so young it's no insult to call them kids. I've watched "Gunner Palace" and a bunch of documentaries about the war, and I'm dazzled by who we send to fight. Yeah, aging reservists. But also, a lot of kids just out of high school. They have no idea what they're doing. How do I know that? Because when I was 18 I had no idea what I was doing. And my friends didn't either. And you, friend, probably didn't as well.

This is a very long introduction to today's sermon, which is about how we should think about Cindy Sheehan, the woman who has been standing outside the President's Crawford, Texas ranch in hopes of having a chat with him. Her son, Casey, died in Iraq. He was 24.

Mrs. Sheehan has all kinds of views. She has an opinion on Israel. She has a view about her income tax. And, of course, she has a view of the war which is not the one heard on Fox News.

If you have a shred of imagination and compassion, you realize that Mrs. Sheehan is in the middle of a trauma that will last all the days of her life, and you will be glad that you are going to sleep in the comfort of your own bed tonight instead of a motel room in Texas. Which is to say: You will cut her some slack. How much? All you have to give. Because she's in the grip of emotions that are off the charts. She hurts more than--please God--you will ever know.

Cindy Sheehan is a Compassion Test. Your willingness to support her in her grief--whatever your opinion of her politics--says volumes about your tolerance for people in pain who don't remind you of yourself. Me, I think she can be strident. And, sometimes, wrong.

But, dammit, I admire her guts.

I cheer her love for her son.

And I have her back.

We come now to the commentary about Cindy Sheehan by Loose Canon. As some of you know, one reason I stopped daily blogging--not the biggest reason, but definitely a factor--is that I regarded LC, my ostensible debating partner, as an operative of the wingnut branch of the Republican Party. She is one of a bunch of pundits who get their talking points from the Republican National Committee or Lucianne Goldberg or whomever in the morning and then recycle those views, verbatim, in the afternoon. I have tried, since I decided to write longer (and, I hope, better) and publish just once a week, to ignore LC. It's not, after all, as if you can engage in a meaningful dialogue with a political operative.

Alas, because I have decided to champion Cindy Sheehan, I must now condemn every foul word LC has written about Cindy. I'm sorry, LC, but some things are bigger than politics. More important than 'respect' for a President whose most familiar expression is a sneer. A whole lot bigger than the 'Christianity' you profess to embrace.

When Jesus was crucified, Mary had a unique reason to grieve. So does Cindy Sheehan. So do all the mothers--on every side--who have lost children in this war. Give them respect. Stand aside. Lower your eyes. And if you have a tear left, for God's sake and yours, shed it for these poor people who gave all and will get nothing back.


Over on, there are a pair of signs that say it all: "Support Our Troops", and, next to it, "Impeach the murdering bastards who sent them to die for a pack of lies."

I am less angry with the poor deluded Kool-Aid guzzlers, vacuum-skulled knuckle-walking stormtrooper-wannabes though they may be, who really think Caesar Doofus Maximus and his merry crew of buccaneers really are the anointed of the Lord (as if!) than I am with the so-called "moderate" GOPhers who don't really like the fake-Christian corporate fascists who now run their party, but enable them because they would rather enable fascism, and condemn their descendants to being debt-slaves of the foreigners who finance the humongous deficits of the Elephascists (aka the GOP), than suck it up and pay taxes like--oh, I don't know--RESPONSIBLE ADULTS?!?! TO ANY "MODERATE" ELEPHASCISTS READING THIS: KNOW THAT YOU SUCK. YOU TRULY, REALLY, EXTRAVAGANTLY SUCK. YOU SUCK MORE INTENSELY THAN THE SURFACE GRAVITY OF THE AVERAGE NEUTRON STAR.

Drina-diva, thanx for giving me space to vent.

From internal exile, Monster from the Id

Monster from the Id on August 17, 2005 11:20 PM

Today on "All Things Considered" they played some tape of pro-war sympathizers chanting, "Support the President." I took that to mean that they have finally come to understand that they don't have exclusive ownership of the concept of "Support our troops."

LAmom on August 22, 2005 09:15 PM

Joan, I've never thought of it that way. I really hope people really are starting to realize that supporting the troops isn't the same thing as supporting the President. You can do one and not the other.

Monster, I love Freeway Blogger! I've always wanted to do something like that.

Drina on August 22, 2005 11:41 PM