By David Rossie
Published on Sunday, August 14, 2005 by the Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York)
Someday, when the account of this sorry period in American history is recorded, Cindy Sheehan may be recalled in the same way we recall that lonely Chinese man who stood before a tank near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
We do not know what happened to that brave man. He may have been among the 10,000 or so dissidents arrested in the wake of the demonstrations, and he may even have been one of those executed.
This is not meant to diminish his courageous act. Nor is it meant to exaggerate the significance of Mrs. Sheehan's effort to confront George Bush over the war that his handlers have led us into. No one is about to cart her off to prison or a firing squad.
It is simply to point out that a single act of courage and determination can come to define a larger issue. Last Saturday, Mrs. Sheehan set up a roadside camp near Bush's ranch, which is now known as Prairie Chapel (The man truly has no shame), and vowed to remain there until Bush agreed to meet with her and answer questions about the war that has claimed the life of her son, Casey, and more than 1,800 others.
In the week since, she has become a magnet for other antiwar activists and, perhaps as important, she has forced a gutless White House press corps to confront an issue it can no longer ignore: that a majority of Americans are rapidly losing faith in the scoundrels who lied us into a war with no coherent strategy for ending it.
Bush administration spinners were quick to point out that the president had already met with Mrs. Sheehan and others who had lost sons, daughters and spouses, but Mrs. Sheehan says it was the very nature of that meeting that prompted her newfound activism.
Bush did not know her son's name, she said. What is more, she added, Bush behaved as if he were at a party, and kept calling her "Mom."
I've heard it said that this is one more example of Bush's stupidity. But he's not stupid. Ignorant? Yes. Insensitive? Absolutely. But not stupid. In fact he's quite clever; clever enough to persuade a good segment of the public, including the news media, that his arrogance is actually resolve.
It has been suggested that Bush could make the growing Sheehan problem go away simply by strolling down the road to talk to her, or by inviting her into the ranch -- I'm sorry, chapel -- for a chat. By so doing he'd turn an embarrassment into a public relations coup.
But that is unlikely to happen, for two reasons. One, he is incapable of embarrassment and, two, because if he were to answer Mrs. Sheehan's questions, it would be seen as being called to account, something he has managed to avoid for most of his life.
This is a man who has been bailed out of every tight spot he's found himself in by Daddy or Daddy's friends; a man who has never felt the need to explain, let along apologize, for anything.
So Mrs. Sheehan appears to be in for a long, hot August, with little likelihood of achieving her goal. But then, as someone pointed out, Rosa Parks didn't know what she was setting in motion that day when she refused to give up her seat on the bus.
Isn't it interesting that it is women, from Joan of Arc to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks and now Cindy Sheehan, who have given impetus to great movements.
Rossie is associate editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin; his column appears on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him c/o P.O. Box 1270, Binghamton, N.Y. 13902-1270.
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