Bush's isolation devalues losses families suffered
By VIVIAN GREENTREE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/16/05
The nation's growing disapproval of our involvement in Iraq has landed squarely in our own backyard. Or, more specifically, President Bush's. Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq, has staged an impromptu protest outside the president's Crawford ranch, where he is vacationing.
Why won't the president meet with her?
Why wouldn't our president, who claims to sympathize with those who have lost a loved one in our war against terrorism, meet with a mother whose son gave the ultimate sacrifice?
From a purely political standpoint (and let's be honest, isn't it always about politics?) it would have been more than prudent for him to invite Sheehan up to the house when she first showed up and listened to her complaints. Instead, he continued his normal isolation routine and sent down an emissary who did little to comfort or allay Sheehan's qualms.
Last week, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described it as another one of the administration's shows of inhumane humanitarianism. I couldn't agree more.
To ignore Sheehan, and her pleas, which echo so loudly within our community at large, is just the kind of swaggering, haughty behavior that Bush should try to play down instead of epitomize.
He has nothing to lose by showing sympathy to Sheehan and everything to lose by attempting to ignore her. She is an ordinary American with firsthand knowledge of the results of terrorism, violence and war. She is simply bearing witness and asking to be heard.
Right-wing pundits are now tripping over themselves to make a joke of Sheehan. They say she has changed her tune from the first time she met with President Bush, two months after her son died. She changed her opinion about the war, much like the majority of people in the country have. How devious! They misquote old news articles, trying to show inconsistencies in her story. Fox News pundit Mike Gallagher has staged a "Pro-America Bus Trip" to Crawford.
The moment Sheehan started asking questions, she was labeled an anti-American extremist. They relegate her to "sour grapes" and say she is politically motivated. Politically motivated? Is she running for Congress?
No. She is simply a mother who has lost her child to the war in Iraq, just as any one of us could. She is also a woman who is searching for answers, just as all of us should.
She is an everyman, in the sense that it could so easily be me, you, or the next mother out there when it happens to our own family. So, please don't dismiss her out of hand as some weapon of the Lefties.
Aren't we fighting over there to help set up a democracy in which people can question their government? And doesn't terrorism gain momentum by dehumanizing real people and real feelings and turning them into distant stereotypes that are easily summed up and judged?
Sheehan represents the thousands of others who can't be there to do the same. To respond that her demands are inauthentic and insincere dehumanizes her in the same way that terrorism, violence and war dehumanize us all.
The president probably won't see Sheehan, even if she stays camped out in his backyard for the duration of his vacation. However, the growing numbers of Americans with firsthand knowledge of the war on terror cannot be ignored.
He should recognize in Sheehan the growing majority of us who see the war for what it really is and want the troops home.
He should see in Sheehan the humanity of those families affected each and every day when their loved ones are killed or permanently maimed. Because right now, many of them remain largely invisible to the American people.
Vivian Greentree, a native of Tucker, is a University of Georgia graduate now living in Corpus Christi, where her husband serves in the U.S. Navy
LINK TO ORIGINAL