Emotional Rallying Point, Yes, But Not So Much a LeaderCindy Sheehan is the emotional rallying point of the anti-war movement, but if she is its leader, we are in some serious trouble. I say this as someone who is at odds with the current administration and went to hear her speak last night, ready to cheer and love her every word. I'm saying this as a person who shook with excitement when I took this photo last fall.
Sheehan lost her son to a war that many people find ridiculous, and held an incredible spontaneous vigil in Crawford to demand some answers. This is an act of incredible passion and bravery, and it has propelled her to move for peace all over the world. This activity has nothing at all to do with her ability to articulate concise, well-reasoned ideas and field difficult, nuanced questions.
She also does not hold an audience well, or at least she didn't at her book reading at the All Souls Unitarian church here in DC the night before last. While I freely admit that I have not been able to stay awake in a church since the early eighties, I have rarely fallen asleep twice in a half-hour period at what is supposed to be an emotional anti-war rally.
A woman from the crowd asked Sheehan "What would you say to the argument that if George Bush were impeached and tried for war crimes, it would only put Cheney and Rice in a position of more power? I think we all agree that this would be worse."
Sheehan paused, her mouth working silently to jump-start words. She eventually replied that anyone in the administration who has decision-making power related to the Iraq war should be impeached en masse and sent to prison for war crimes. Most of the audience clapped long and loud at this response.
Another woman asked Sheehan "If Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, both influential American spiritual leaders, spoke out so vehemently against war in their times, why is it that T.D. Jakes has not said a single word against this one?" Again, the question was met with awkward silence. Sheehan then said "I'm not familiar with that person. But every religious leader should speak out against this war because it is immoral." True, but that was hardly the point of the question.
Cindy mentioned that she is considering running against Dianne Feinstein in an upcoming election. As a liberal who is against the war, I would really like for Sheehan to not do that. She got schooled by accident, twice in a row, by people who were on her side. If she runs for public office on a bring-the-troops-home platform with that kind of gauzy, ill-prepared rhetoric, she's going to get torn to shreds, along with the American public's perception of the entire anti-war movement.
It's fine for her to be emotional and publicly passionate -- she lost a son to a ridiculous, trumped-up war (which has not been without the benefit of stopping some Iraqi mothers from losing their sons to Hussein, I have to admit) and is entitled to her opinion. We dip our brushes in the same paint bucket. The difference is, I need a leader to work with a much narrower brush, and her roller only comes in a double-wide size.
The anti-war movement has some serious work to do, and we need some savage, heartlessly detail-oriented sons of bitches to do it. We need a legion of snarling Hunter S. Thompsons with a Swiss watchmaker's eye for detail. There needs to be an insurgency of rationality and precision against the Bush administration, and while Sheehan can marshal emotions and excitement, she is not at all the person to command this army. Cindy Sheehan believes in peace to the bottom of her huge and broken heart -- we need someone who can wage and win a political war.