Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 11:27 AM
When Beth Holloway rushed down to Aruba upon learning that her daughter Natalee had gone missing, she inspired almost universal sympathy as a naturally concerned mother. Moreover, some of us even cheered when she challenged local authorities to either mount a more aggressive campaign to find Natalee or give a more credible report on her disappearance. But then Mrs Holloway began exhibiting all of the stereotypical traits of “the ugly American”: disrespectful, overwrought, arrogant, impudent, unreasonable, demanding, self-centered, etc. And, she soon turned that sympathy into scorn.
Click here to see what I mean….
Now comes Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed in Iraq over a year ago (April 2004). At the time of his military funeral, Casey’s father expressed pride that his son died fighting for his country and a cause he believed in. And, Mrs Sheehan expressed great appreciation that President Bush met with them to convey his regrets for their loss and the nation’s thanks for their son’s sacrifice. In her own words she said
I now know he’s sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he’s sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he’s a man of faith.
(It is noteworthy that many families of fallen soldiers complain that Bush has yet to meet with them. Of course, given the daily roll of American casualties in Iraq, if he took time to meet with each grieving family he would end up serving more as national undertaker than as president of the United States.)
So why is Mrs Sheehan now making a nuisance of herself down there in Texas (especially when good manners should’ve led her to set up her protest outside the White House in Washington, DC)?
Well, it seems that over time, Mrs Sheehan’s grief transformed into rabid and, evidently, misguided political activism that alienated the affection not only of her husband who, coincidentally, filed for divorce just last Friday, but also of her family who felt compelled to issue the following instructive statement:
The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son’s good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country, and our president, silently, with prayer and respect.
No one knows better than her own family why Mrs Sheehan has turned her private grief into a public spectacle. (But for the record, no matter her political or personal motivations, Bush should’ve invited her in to appease her as soon as she showed up at his ranch weeks ago; i.e., before her sit-in became the media circus it is now.) What is clear, however, is that, for many, the sympathy she once inspired has turned into scorn. After all, most of us (including those who have grave misgivings about Bush’s leadership) are already fed up with paid political hacks on TV spewing propaganda for or against the war in Iraq. Therefore, we don’t need to see Mrs Sheehan everyday wiping away her dry tears and lecturing us on American policy (declaring that her son died in an illegal war, that Bush is a liar, that he needs to withdraw American troops from Iraq – now!…and that Israel needs to get out of Palestine to stop terrorism? Puh-leeeeeze!)
In fact, just as Mrs Holloway’s indiscriminate courting of the media has become an annoying comical farce (with daily reports on “new leads” that lead nowhere), so too has Mrs Sheehan’s media campaign begun to resemble the spectacle of a tragic comedy (with gun wielding Texans shouting at her to take her war protest and go back where she came from).
Besides creating this public spectacle, however, Mrs Sheehan is also inciting polarizing resentment within the ranks of grieving military parents because she’s acting as if her son is the only soldier to die in Iraq and as if she speaks for all parents affected.
Finally, it seems more than a little ungracious, gauche and arrogant for Mrs Sheehan to use and abuse our sympathies as seed emotion (and PR) for her new career as the female Michael Moore. And, if you don’t think the media attention has gotten to her head, consider how she characterizes those who seek to comfort her in person for the loss of her son:
I couldn’t walk through Camp Casey today without hugging people and getting my picture taken. Now I know how Mickey Mouse feels at Disneyland.
Mrs Sheehan may be a misguided, attention-seeking political activist or just a useful idiot to Bush-haters (like those at MoveOn.org who are funding her protest). But, either way, she now appears utterly devoid of the emotions of a grieving mother…(as her own family can readily attest).