Cindy Has Earned a Rest, By William Rivers PittWed May 30, 2007 15:40
Cindy Has Earned a Rest
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Columnist
Wednesday 30 May 2007
My alliance with Cindy Sheehan began with an exchange of emails several years ago after I made mention of her son, Casey, in an article about the expanding number of American troops lost in Iraq. She wrote to thank me, and to correct me on some small details about precisely when and how Casey died. Our friendship grew from that moment, and over time, she was always there to hand me a good kick in the pants whenever I needed one.
Last March, Cindy's long-belt of road-bound activism brought her to Boston, where she spoke at a rally commemorating the four-year anniversary of the war. My bar is a favorite spot of hers; I'd brought her there twice before during previous visits she made to Massachusetts, and both times I saw the same woman of passionate energy and commitment who sat in a Texas ditch until the country could no longer ignore her - or the war. The light was in her eyes, the hope that things could be changed was in every word she spoke and, as ever, the sorrow from her loss was there like a shroud. She was motivated, optimistic, cynical, tired, inspired and resolute, all at the same time.
When I brought her and some of her friends out to have a beer and relax last March, however, I saw a different Cindy.
She was not broken or in despair, but neither was she the same woman I'd known before. Health problems had robbed her of the energy that once crackled around her, one arm was in a sling because of tendon damage, and she was tired. Bone-tired. Tired in soul and spirit. I began that evening looking forward to the kind of rollicking talks we'd always enjoyed together, but wound up spending most of the night pleading with her to take some time off and rest.
Cindy hadn't really stopped, you see. She'd never left the road, never surrendered to exhaustion or sadness, never allowed the barbs from enemies and so-called "allies" to deter her or discourage her. But sitting there, I could see how much of a toll her efforts and sacrifices were taking. The treads on her tires were worn down to the radials, so to speak.
The announcement of her withdrawal from activism the other day, therefore, came as no real surprise. Everyone has limits, and Cindy's inspired and determined sacrifices took her farther past any limits most could imagine. The last time I saw her, she was so tired, so worn, so discouraged, so sad and, worst, was beginning to succumb to a sense of futility over the cause. She was, at that moment, a shadow of the hardcase I'd come to know and love.
Cindy has never completely recovered from the loss of her son, I think, and the exhaustion she now feels surely stems in part from that sorrow. The road played a large part in robbing her strength, of course, because the road always takes far more than it gives. Attacks from those who still support this Iraq war, who still treat politics like an our-side-your-side football rivalry, likewise took their toll.
What seems to have cut her deepest, however, were all the insults and denigrations and frustrations that any public-facing progressive activist will find within the community of their so-called allies. We spoke of this in March, spoke of how utterly impossible it is to keep progressives from undermining their own efforts and ideals, simply because so many within that community choose to place this narcissistic, self-important egoism above actually getting anything done.
"I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life," wrote Cindy in her farewell letter the other day. "This group won't work with that group; he won't attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that it's named after has so many divisions."
That pretty much sums it up, and best describes why so many simple, good and necessary progressive policy ideas wither on the vine. It is what it is, and Cindy tried her best to batter through that phenomenon to bring people together and end this Iraq war. It should come as no surprise that insults from the very community that once championed her became the final straw. Herding cats is hard enough without getting scratched to ribbons for your troubles.
Anyone who called her an attention-whore is a fool, and is absolutely ignorant of what real sacrifice looks like and feels like and requires and costs. Anyone glad for her departure from activism is celebrating a disaster, is celebrating the loss of a face and heart and soul that brought this war into the living rooms of this TV-dulled nation in a way that no other effort or march or activism had before.
But anyone surprised that she's going home should have been with me in March, and seen her condition of body and spirit. Cindy has done enough. She has done more than anyone else to end this war. She has honored her son, changed the way this nation looks at this war, she has inspired, and that is enough. Those who rallied to her banner, who still consider her a hero - and yes, Cindy, there are many more of us than you can possible imagine - will take it from here as best they can.
And, by the way, there's also this:
"We're going to see what other direction we can come at it," said Cindy on Tuesday during Ed Schultz's radio show, "because obviously the direction that we're going has stopped being effective. We're going to close up the factory, we're going to retool, and we're going to see how we can come at this problem from a different angle."
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation," is now available from PoliPointPress.
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