I don’t know all the reasons why tears rise to my eyes when I read about Cindy Sheehan. They flowed when I saw the photograph on the bright cover of her new book Not One More Mother’s Child. I noticed a young man (as I once was) admiringly looking toward Cindy from the back row. Others held a banner for Iraq Veterans Against the War.
“Cindy Sheehan is the mother we all long for,” CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans starts her Personal Introduction to the book. Suddenly I understood something. The tears connect me, in gratitude, to Cindy -- who continues to mourn the April 4, 2004, killing in Iraq of her soldier son Casey Sheehan and to organize against war.
Vietnam was the war of my generation. When I resigned my U.S. Army officer’s commission to protest that war, my wonderful, loving mother could not find it in herself to support me. In fact, I was considered a traitor to my country within the military family that gave its name to Ft. Bliss, Texas.
Though I may be more than a decade older than Cindy, I consider myself one of her many grateful “sons.” She works for those children currently at war, those who may someday be called to war, and even for those of us who were once at war -- all of us. Throughout her book she remembers the children of other Gold Star Families for Peace, which she helped found.
Cindy Sheehan may be the single most important person to turn the tide of the American people against the Iraq War. She set up Camp Casey outside Pres. Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas, in August and has continued to dog him since with a single question: “For what Noble Cause did my son die?” She has yet to receive an answer from the president. She has concluded sadly, “My son died for nothing.”
On September 24, slightly less than a month after leaving Crawford, Cindy spoke to 300,000 protestors in Washington, D.C. “We need a people’s movement to end this war,” she declared. Two months later, on Thanksgiving night, she returned to Crawford, where a permanent sandstone monument to her slain son was unveiled with the words “Sheehan’s Stand.” She spent the holiday with “my family of the heart.” Once again, she was a couple of miles from Bush. Camp Casey has become a place where people celebrate birthdays and holidays and even choose to get married, because it is what Cindy describes as a loving place.
Not One More Mother’s Child opens with Cindy’s straight-talking November 4, 2004, Open Letter to George W. Bush: “Your reckless and wanton foreign policies killed my son, my big boy, my hero, my best friend.” She poses the essential questions, “What has happened to America? What has happened to our freedoms? Where did sanity go?”
When she initially arrived in Crawford in August, Cindy was a grieving mother known to few. Now she is well known internationally and the author of a new book likely to become a bestseller. One gets the impression that she is not going to finish dogging Bush until he withdraws American troops from Iraq. This book will help that mission by giving it more exposure and providing a fuller picture of who she really is than the media offers.
Not One More Mother’s Child assembles over 200 pages of Cindy’s own words, ripe with intimate details, and 21 color photographs of her with family members and supporters. It chronicles Cindy’s Aug. 3 idea to go to Crawford, her Aug. 5 speech in Dallas to Veterans for Peace, her first dispatch from Crawford on Aug. 6 and material into late September.
This book is about healing -- one woman’s story, our nation’s story. It documents Cindy’s movement through grief, helplessness, and rage to
effective direct action. It concludes with her essay “From Despair to Hope.” By telling her own story so clearly, Cindy helps me, and others of us, to understand our own personal stories. Cindy emerges in this book as a patriotic American committed to the Christian tradition of peacemaking.
A Mother’s love -- as simple (and complicated) as that -- is what it took to catalyze a peace movement. Cindy makes her motivation quite clear: “love of Casey.” The book is full of compelling details about his 24 years. Her goal is also clear: “to hold George Bush accountable and to raise awareness about his lies and misuse and abuse of power.”
Cindy Sheehan is one spunky American. She does not sugarcoat words, but speaks the common language. Her writing is direct, passionate, and inspiring. She speaks with integrity, authority, determination, generosity, and clarity. Cindy has become the conscience of America and helps us deal with the shame that so many people feel for our difficulty at standing up to Bush.
I’ve seen Cindy only once, at a CODEPINK booth at the Bioneers Conference this October. I like the way Jodie Evans describes her: “nurturing, a she-wolf, a mother bear, unafraid. She has empathy.” She radiates strength, calmness, and humility, which we need at this historic moment when an increasing number of Americans finally feel that the troops should leave Iraq.
The book is divided into six sections: her writings, letters, speeches, blogs from the August 6-31 “Peaceful Occupation of Crawford, Texas,” the September 1-26 “Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour,” and a final section entitled: “The Camp Casey Movement Will Not Die.”
In the three months since Cindy finished her August stay in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, it looks increasingly likely that Americans will not let Bush “stay the course.” Even members of Congress are finally breaking their silence to come out against the Iraq War. Cindy’s words ring loud and clear as Bush’s popularity plummets, “The Camp Casey movement will not die until we have a genuine account of the truth and until our troops are brought home. Get used to it, George. We are not going away.”
Shepherd Bliss writes for the Hawai’i Island Journal. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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