Monday, May 28, 2007

'Happy' Dead Soldiers Day?

I was over at Daily Kos this morning reading Cindy Sheehan's diary "Good Riddance Attention Whore" in which she announced that she's decided to stay home and take care of her family rather than being the face of the antiwar movement any more - after years of being the most visible US antiwar advocate following the death of her son Casey in the Iraq war:

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes. [She has also received scorn from some at Daily Kos. -catnip]

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

Exactly. And that sentiment is akin to blasphemy on a blog like Daily Kos which exists , in the words of its founder, as "a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory." That goal trumps everything. Anyone, such as those who advocate third parties or otherwise doesn't fall in line is ridiculed, harassed and/or troll-rated into oblivion or banishment.

Cindy's fight was against a corrupt government - and that includes Democrats who supported the war or did nothing to end it - those who chose to look the other way after Bush had so blatanly and dishonestly pursued a pre-emptive war against a country that wasn't even a threat to the United States. That's what Cindy's son died for and she is brutally honest about it.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

Imagine her tremendous pain at that realization.

And so she is going home:

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

So how, on the day that is supposed to be in remembrance of dead soldiers, can anyone bring themselves to attach the word "happy" to this or any memorial day or think it's just a day for barbeques and parties?

Via wiki, the dead seem to be an afterthought:

In addition to remembrance, Memorial Day is also a time for picnics, family gatherings, and sporting events. Some Americans view Memorial Day as the unofficial beginning of summer and Labor Day as the unofficial end of the season. The national Click it or ticket campaign ramps up beginning Memorial Day weekend, noting the beginning of the most dangerous season for auto accidents and other safety related incidents. The USAF "101 Critical days of summer" also begin on this day as well. Some Americans use Memorial Day to also honor any family members who have died, not just servicemen.

"Memorial Day" wasn't always about having a long weekend and "Memorial Day sales" in the stores:

Memorial Day formerly occurred on May 30, and some, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to this fixed date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

In these times, the Bush administration's blackout of returning coffins of the war dead has also contributed to that nonchalance - as has the derision against those who oppose war who have been so wrongly labeled as being "unpatriotic" or "treasonous". The wars the US are in have been so sanitized for public consumption that they hardly seem real and the majority of US citizens support war as a concept anyway. Those who speak against that have been shunned and have even been spied on by US administrations as being possible threats to America's security. Ironic, since US involvement in Iraq (and in support of Israel) has now created the biggest threat. 3,400+ soldiers killed - more people than were lost on 9/11. Over 20,000 wounded - with no end in sight.

And then there are the war victims - when's their day of remembrance? When does the world pause to think about them? Where are their names carved in stone for time immemorial? I suppose if the US government decided to assign a day for them, they'd just make another long weekend out of it so people could just wish each other "Happy War Dead Day" while they grill another hamburger, because that seems to be what the memory of a life is worth these days.

No wonder Cindy Sheehan is going home. She's done her best and I wish her well. Hers was a sorely needed voice in the midst of such warmongering insanity. May she find some personal peace, at least.

Related: Read Andrew Bacevich's editorial, "I Lost My Son to a War I oppose", in the Washington Post.

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war's continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son's death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son's wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

It's been said over and over and over. When will people finally wake up?

See also: Wrapped and Trapped by Madman in the Marketplace.
Cindy Sheehan: Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party

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