Saturday, August 27, 2005

Muskogee Phoenix scoop

How long until the next Kent State?

From Mary deJuliis, columnist for the Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix:
The president had to pass the crosses and protestors when he attended a GOP fundraiser Friday afternoon (Aug. 12) at a nearby ranch. We protestors were backed farther away from the road, roped off with police tape for about four hours with Secret Service, state and county law enforcement officers. A helicopter flew overhead lower than others that we were accustomed to. The helicopter had an agent riding outside with a weapon trained on us, but once the motorcade passed he moved on as well. The motorcade went by us twice very fast, and a few of the vehicles had rifles pointed out open windows. I was thankful no one made any sudden moves.
I've been reading quite a bit on the Camp Casey scene, but you'd think someone else besides Eastern Oklahoma's Number One News Source would find the details I've highlighted worthy to report.

Gosh, I wonder why the mainstream press protects Bush so. Could it be the free Shiner Bock? The catfish? Homemade cheese and chocolate-chip cookies? Ah, what the correspondent ate at the prez's bash. THOSE are the important details, not that the President's protectors brandished guns (from a helicopter!) while he sped past a bunch of peaceful protestors.

Elsewhere, Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone dispenses his snarkiness in typically evenhanded ways, but paints a heartrending portrait of Cindy Sheehan few others have matched.

But for all this, Sheehan seemed a very lonely woman. Tall, lanky and clunkily built, with the most common and therefore most tragic of faces -- the forgotten housewife whom life, with all its best joys, has long ago passed by -- Sheehan had begun to move around the compound with a preternatural slowness, like a ghost. She floated, rather than walked, into the trailer. After a week of media madness, she was like a superhero unable to return home after falling into a vat of disfiguring acid. Her past -- the middle-class family life in Vacaville, California, with her four kids and the yellow station wagon they nicknamed the BananaMobile -- all that was gone.

She had been through so much in the past week. In still more proof that red-blue politics often comes before family in this country, her in-laws had released a statement cruelly denouncing her. Her estranged husband, perhaps a coward and perhaps unable to handle the stress, filed for divorce. Revelations about her personal life were spilling into print, and all around the country, heartless creeps like Drudge and Ankarlo were casting themselves as friends and protectors of her fallen son and criticizing her for dishonoring him.

In return for all that, what Sheehan got was this: her own trailer, a couple of weeks' worth of airtime and a bunch of people who called themselves her friends but were really just humping the latest cause. They would probably be moving on soon, and Sheehan would be left with nothing. And meeting her now, I was struck by one more thing: At the end, when it was all over, her son would still be gone. I felt very sorry for her.

"I never knew," she said, sighing. "Not only that I would become the face of the anti-war movement but also that I would become the sacrificial lamb of the anti-war movement."

I asked her if she was referring to all the personal attacks. She nodded.

"But I'd still do it again," she said. "Because it's so important."

... Sheehan believes that no matter what happens, one thing she accomplished was the returning of the Iraq war to its rightful place at the forefront of the national consciousness. She describes an experience earlier in the week when a TV producer offhandedly mentioned to her that her timing was perfect, that Sheehan had been lucky to hold her vigil on what was otherwise a slow news week.

"And I said to her, 'A slow news week? Didn't thirty soldiers die in the war this month?'" She shook her head. "It's crazy. Iraq should be the lead story every day."

... In the Sixties, the anti-war movement was part of a cultural revolution: If you opposed Vietnam, you were also rejecting the whole rigid worldview that said life meant going to war, fighting the Commies, then coming back to work for the man, buying two cars and dying with plenty of insurance. That life blueprint was the inflexible expectation of the time, and so ending the war of that era required a visionary movement.

Iraq isn't like that. Iraq is an insane blunder committed by a bunch of criminal incompetents who have managed so far to avoid the lash and the rack only because the machinery for avoiding reality is so advanced in this country. We don't watch the fighting, we don't see the bodies come home and we don't hear anyone screaming when a house in Baghdad burns down or a child steps on a mine.

The only movement we're going to need to end this fiasco is a more regular exposure to consequence. It needs to feel its own pain. Cindy Sheehan didn't bring us folk songs, but she did put pain on the front pages. And along a lonely Texas road late at night, I saw it spread.

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