Once there was a woman who was married to a man. Alongside her husband, this woman protested the injustices which were inflicted upon a segment of American society to which she and her husband belonged. The woman and her husband challenged all other Americans to live up to the ideals on which their shared country was founded. They marched, demonstrated, protested and boycotted—this was always done, however, under the rubric of non-violence and of lawful, peaceful protest: women coiffed their hair and wore their Sunday best and men wore business suits and ties to face down those who would deny them their God-given, inalienable rights. It was important to assert these American rights while behaving as ladies and gentlemen. That tactic served the movement well; it stood in stark contrast to the monstrous behavior of those who beat, shot, bombed, arrested and turned fire hoses onto these demonstrators/protesters--sometimes under the banner of law. Observing these opposing behaviors, how could thinking, loyal and fair-minded Americans—citizens of a nation which claimed to be founded in freedom—condone the abuse those of its citizens who only wanted to enjoy that freedom?
For these noble efforts, the husband was murdered. However, in the many ensuing years, the woman came to stand as a symbol for her husband’s sacrifice. Even as others have attempted to denigrate her husband’s reputation and/or inappropriately co-opt his mission, the woman remained a classy representative for him: never loud or brassy and always choosing to symbolize the moral and very American cause for which her husband gave his life.
Some thirty-five years later, another even younger man is killed by still another set of terrorists. This young man also made a voluntary decision to stand up for the right of others to live in peace and in freedom—this time not of Americans, but the cause was no less worthy. However, in the wake of his death, a member of his family—his mother--chooses to stand in opposition of that young man’s life’s work.
Yesterday, on the same day that the first woman, Coretta Scott King, died peacefully in her sleep, the mother of this young man was also arrested for dissenting. But in this matter, as in nearly all of her other means of protest, the second woman continuously forgets one of the most important lessons that the Civil Rights Movement demonstrated for all other movements: don’t alienate the vast majority of the onlookers. The second woman chose to attend the 2006 State of the Union speech—invited into the Congressional Gallery by US Representative Lynn Woosley (D-CA)—wearing a tee-shirt bearing the number of troops which have been killed as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Any sloganeering is against the rules of attendance in the gallery. This woman was asked to cover her shirt. When she refused to do so and refused to leave the gallery, she was arrested. This might sound like a heavy-handed measure unless one is familiar with the laws which cover the matter. It might also sound as if the woman—Cindy Sheehan--were being persecuted for her well-documented opposition to the Iraq War and virulent antipathy towards President Bush unless one finds out that a congressional spouse was also asked to leave the gallery for the same reason. (Ironically, the congressional spouse’s tee-shirt exhorted observers to ‘Support the Troops.’)
But what can we take from observing the behaviors of Mrs. King and Mrs. Sheehan? What can we learn about what each woman thinks of Martin Luther King and Casey Sheehan by looking at what they have done since the two men were killed? There are many similarities, but all too many differences; three of the latter stand out.
1. One consistently stood by the cause of her deceased loved one; the other asserts that her loved one was duped into joining his cause.
2. One remained proud of the fact that her loved one gave his life for the liberty of a given group; the other seems intent on making meaningless and futile the sacrifice made by her loved one’s mission to liberate still another group.
3. One had always conducted her public self in a manner that gave credit to her loved one, the rest of her family, their cause and to her country. The other uses profanity, vulgarity and epithets to assert her points and cavorts with avowed enemies of her country. Even those who support Mrs. Sheehan and her cause drew the line after she called President Bush a terrorist while in audience with Venezualan President and chronic BDS sufferer Hugo Chavez.
Regardless of what you may think of the cause(s) in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Specialist Casey Sheehan (USA) enlisted themselves, each of the women in their lives staked out a position in relation to their respective fallen. And, while the contrast between their styles may seem trivial, it’s important for two reasons: the ability to convince others that one’s point of view is correct and one’s internal belief in the justness of one’s cause. From my perspective, those whose cause is most assuredly just have no need to be rude and harsh.
I’m betting that, before she died, Mrs. King was able to take comfort in the fact that she honored her husband’s Dream and saw many aspects of the same become reality.
Perhaps Mrs. Sheehan will be able to say that she lived to ensure that her son’s death had some meaning, but I doubt it. However the Global War on Terror plays out, Mrs. Sheehan has made a mockery of the things in which Specialist Sheehan believed. And for that, I continue to pity her greatly.
Rest in Peace, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Casey Sheehan.
As for you, Cindy Sheehan, I still wish you Peace in life. You’re going to need it.
(Thanks to Patterico)