August 15, 2005
Sheehan: In defense of my own consistency
from - smijer
No one has brought it up to me, but if anyone is paying attention to little old me, and they are watching to see if I object as strenuously to the Cindy Sheehan media circus as I did to the Terri Schiavo media circus... well let me explain.
We must concede there are glaring similarities between the two cases. Cindy and the Schindlers were both grieving parents who transformed that grief into political activism against the perceived cause of their grief. Both were co-opted by political activists who hoped to further their agenda, and in some cases consolidate their political power behind these grieving parents.
John Cole said...
After a conversation with someone via email, I feel exactly the same way about the people using Cindy Sheehan every day that I did about Frank Pavone, Randall Terry, and their ilk when they used poor Mr. and Mrs. Schiavo [sic, meaning Schindler] as their political pawns back in March. The Schiavos [sic] and Cindy Sheehan, I can understand them speaking out, I can understand them doing what they are doing (even if, in both cases, I disagree with them). The people using them to advance their own agenda? Beneath contempt.
Well, I agree that the actions of those who put the Schindlers to such use were beneath contempt. But not just because they co-opted the grieving activism of a distraught parent. Maybe that's part of it. It certainly wasn't the part of it that had me tied up in knots, though.
Part of what bothers me, and it is a relatively small part, compared to the whole, is that the parents in each case - understandably, perhaps - refused to acknowledge the role of the free choices of their children in deciding their own fate. Surely, the courts took on the burden of choosing to remove Terri S.'s feeding tube, but just as surely, they did so on the basis of the best possible determination of her own wishes. Surely president Bush sent Casey S. off to a meaningless war and death, but just as surely, he volunteered for service and chose to go and fight rather than to desert. In each case, responsible adults made responsible determinations with knowledge of the risks involved. This shouldn't be glossed over.
But the most dreadful aspects of what happened with the Schiavos are not present in the Sheehan case.
The advocates for the Schindlers, and sometimes Terri's siblings themselves, chose a full bore media smear campaign against an innocent, private individual trying to make the best decisions for his family. Advocates for Cindy Sheehan have directed their attack against the person who sought and gained the highest public office in the land, who sets policy for the entire nation, and who voluntarily took our nation to an aggressive war... Perhaps he thought he was making the "best decision" for America, but even then he also took it upon himself to make decisions for tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families, too. While it may be his place to make the "best decision" for America, absent an imminent threat from abroad, he overstepped his authority when the decided to make decisions for Iraq. In short: Bush and the neocons voluntarily chose the public role of bringing death where it was not asked for. Michael Schiavo, facing a real crisis, took a choice he could not avoid and made it, privately, to the best of his ability. Bush chose to put his reputation on the line when he campaigned for President, and again when he gave the order to invade. Michael did no such thing. Yet, the smears against Michael were no less vociferous and no more forgiving than the attacks against the president.
The other unconscionable element in the Schiavo case was the factor of deception. No quack doctor had to convince her that her son had been killed in Iraq. It's the simple truth.
No daily line up of news commentators, politicians and unqualified or unprepared "experts" have had to convince as many Americans as possible that the war in Iraq was a voluntary choice, not a reluctant response to dire threat. If anything, it has been the other way around. It's the simple truth that there has been never been clear and consistent signal from the White House about the reasons for launching an aggressive war at that particular moment in history (rather, say, than after the weapons inspectors had finished their job... or after an ultimatum concerning human rights and democratic reform). There is a lot of partisan disagreement, and cases of deception on both sides. But there has been no orchestrated, systematic deception from Cindy S.'s advocates, as there was from people like Bill Frist who mis-diagnosed Terri S.'s condition from the Senate floor, based on a few minutes of highly edited video.
Finally, Casey's dignity is quite intact. The images we see put forward by Sheehan and her allies are, when they feature him at all, of Casey as he was when they were proudest of him. While this goes on, he is quite dead, not languishing in a persistent vegetative state, imprisoned in his own body, while the media constantly flashes images of his crippled body and his vacant facial expressions. His body is at piece, and demonstrators are camped out in the brush outside a Texas ranch, not in the parking lot of a hospice care center, where Terri and Michael can find no privacy, and where others trying to visit dying loved ones have to make their way through a three ring circus to reach their bed.
So, I really think that Cindy deserves to have her say, and the media should responsibly report on it and move on... not just feed their ratings by endlessly beating the story to death. But I don't see cause for the kind of outrage that I expressed a few months ago.
And also, I think that Cindy's critics should bear in mind the nature of her protest when they offer their opinions on the matter. Rather than attacking her personally, or trying to distort the words she spoke a year or two ago to make her position seem inconsistent, they should say why they think she is wrong, in a way that is respectful to a grieving mother... and let it go. As it stands, her critics are doing nearly as much to feed the media frenzy as she and her advocates are. And that's a shame, too.
Posted by smijer at August 15, 2005 08:01 AM