Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reflections on the Peace Mom's visit

I have a lot of respect for Cindy Sheehan. Increasingly, though, I'm starting to wonder what she's thinking.

When she started her activism against the Iraq War, she was in firm possession of the high moral ground. She was coming at the issue as a grieving mother anguishing over the thought that her son may have died for nothing. In that role, she earned the sympathy of a lot of Americans who may not have agreed with her political stance.

I don't believe the skeptics who now say Sheehan is putting herself "out there" just to get publicity, or as part of some scheme to line her purse. No one ever heard of Cindy Sheehan before her son Casey was killed in action in 2004, and there can be no doubt that her grief was initially what drove her.

What I wonder about is the path she's taken since.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Sheehan broadening her efforts and becoming a spokesperson against the war. My problem is with the way she's doing it.

I saw it all too often during the Vietnam era -- the "peace" crowd increasingly circling the wagons, lashing out in irrelevant directions and spending a lot of time congratulating each other.

This is not how you win an argument. You win an argument by addressing the people who disagree with you, and trying to convince them.

One of our biggest problems as a nation, I believe, is that we tend to get tangled up in ideology. Come to think of it, that's probably the biggest problem of all nations -- it's part of the human condition.

What this does, though, is keep us from focusing on a problem in isolation. The Iraq War is not necessarily a Democratic, Republican, liberal or conservative issue. It is what it is, irrespective of our politics, and we need to take a clear-eyed, objective look at it. The same with global warming and tax reform and prison reform and all the other issues we've managed to politicize.

But back to Cindy Sheehan. In my humble opinion, she's getting scattered. Instead of focusing all her energy on convincing other Americans that the war in Iraq is a bad idea, she's now focusing on getting President Bush and Vice-President Cheney impeached.

Another bad idea, it would seem to me. For one thing, it would take a mighty convincing case against Bush and Cheney to conjure up the two-thirds majority it would take to get them out of office. Impeachment is easy -- a simple majority. Following through is excruciatingly difficult.

Just as the Republicans did it to Bill Clinton -- knowing they didn't have a two-thirds majority -- an impeachment of Bush and Cheney would just be a distraction at a time when we don't need to be distracted. And again, as with Clinton, what is the point of trying to impeach leaders as their term winds down to a close?

Moreover, if you make the issue a personal attack on Bush and Cheney, you open an argument that can't be won. For the most part, people either love them or they hate them, and it's hard to imagine that anything Cindy Sheehan says is going to change that. So rather than trying to make the point that the current administration is stupid, or evil, it makes more sense just to take the position that they're wrong, and let history take care of the final judgement.

Sure, it can be argued that the Iraq War is part of a larger problem in American foreign policy, and that we need to start viewing the world differently. But making trips to Venezuela (where leader Hugo Chavez is openly defiant and contemptuous of the U.S.) and Cuba, as Sheehan has done, isn't going to help change hearts and minds.

It's the Jane Fonda mistake all over again -- her trip to North Vietnam cost her any shred of credibility she may have had among moderates.

Having said all that, I think it's exciting that Sheehan is stopping here (I'm speaking as a newspaper person here), and I hope a lot of people turn out to hear her, whether they agree with her or not. Whenever we stop freely exchanging ideas, we stop being America.


menshevik said...

Cindy Sheehan: Distinct Chance Of Staged Attack, Martial Law

Anonymous said...

I too hope a lot of people will turn out at Riverfront Park on July 19th to hear Cindy Sheehan and other speakers. I hope they will mostly talk about why we should get out of Iraq now. And less about this impeachment thing. Bring a sign made by yourself or your child/ren expressing your viewpoint.

Thanks to Darrell and the News & Advance for helping to publicize this event on the front page of the paper this week. Cindy Sheehan is just one of us who chanced to become a national figure and who has the courage of her convictions.

Bedford Hawk said...

Darrell, your columns are always very perceptive, informative and entertaining. And this blog is terrific. Today's column about Sheehan's visit ended with a very good point concerning freedom of protesting and our soldiers dying to preserve that freedom. I wholeheartedly agree as an American veteran. On the other hand when the protesting gives comfort to "the enemy" here in USA located sleeper cells and supporters, and when it tends to demoralize our Troops and their families, then that right needs to be exercised with discretion and sensitivity, which Sheehan and her supporters never ever do or offer.
Most anti-war liberals just can't seem to grasp that a People who hate our very existence in this world...who are coming to butcher us and our children, if possible, will not be "moved" by all the "I love you(s)" that we may rant before the knives touch our throats. If we are to survive as a nation, we, all of us, must be willing to stand in defense of all that we Americans should hold sacred in this world. We will only have lasting peace and safety in the USA for ourselves and our children if we are willing to stand strong together. Weakness and pacifism will be our undoing and ruin. I firmly believe that liberals, without even realizing it, are potentially our Enemy from Within. That, my friend, is the reason I personally carried the flag and waved it in Sheehan's face Thursday night, not because she was exercising a freedom. And, I appreciate the press not showing our pictures, which is always a hazard when one represents The Right in these matters. Publicity and press appearances is not our motive. Thank you, your friend in Bedford, the home of "The Bedford Boys".

martha said...

My Uncle died in France during WWII for your right to wave your flag in Sheehan's face last week. He also died so that Cindy Sheehan could speak here.

Liberals are not the enmy within. We just look at the situation differently than you.If Bush had not been president on 9/11 I would like to believe that we would have gone to Afghanistan and captured Osama Bin Laden and our diplomatic efforts in the Middle East would have averted many of the horrors that we see today.

Liberals are not opposed to fighting when it is necessary...we just fought in the wrong place this time and made the situation much more dangerous to boot.

Anonymous said...

if you're for the war fine. support the troops, support the commander. but why support a course of action that is handing our boys to the butchers slowly?
if you supprt this action support it being done right. otherwise we're wasting our boys lives overseas when they should be here.

M.L.C. said...

Impeachment seems to be a side issue until a good look is taken at the Constitution to see the at 10 Articles that have been broken/abused by our Administration headed by President Bush and VicePresident Chaney. If we the People would realize this and proceed with impeachment the truth would actually come out - the breaking of the Articles point to all the outrageous maneuverings that led to this horrendous condition. Then perhaps the haggling over funding that goes to building bases, an Embassy and an oil pipe line all the while claiming the funds go to the military for the fight on terror would stop. The way would be clear.