On Native Ground
A MOTHER'S GRIEF AND A PRESIDENT'S ARROGANCE
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- He's had time to go fishing, to go on a two-hour bike ride, to watch a Little League baseball game, to take naps, catch up on his reading and go to Republican fund-raisers.
What President George W. Bush hasn't had time for this month is a meeting with the grieving mother of a soldier killed in Iraq.
The President was asked by reporters over the weekend why he had time for bike rides and fund-raisers but none for Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who has been camped outside the gates of Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, since Aug. 6.
His answer? "I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life. I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy. And part of my being is to be outside exercising."
Let us leave aside for now the fact that despite his passion for exercise, President Bush hasn't made a good, crisp decision since taking office. The words in the previous paragraph drip with arrogance. They are the words of someone who thinks he is above the rest of us, who doesn't have to or want to be held accountable by one mother who wants to know why her son had to die in a war that has turned out to be a fraud.
Casey Sheehan, 24, was killed in an attack in Baghdad on April 4, 2004, five days after he arrived in Iraq. His mother wants to ask one question of the Commander-in-Chief, a question shared by nearly 2,000 American families:
"What did my son die for?"
Cindy Sheehan told reporters recently that President Bush said "my son died for a 'noble cause' and I want to ask him what that noble cause is. ... You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East. You tell me that, you don't tell me my son died for freedom and democracy."
Americans are growing more disgusted by the day with the lack of leadership and straight answers by the Bush administration. They see a war without end in Iraq, a war based on lies and wishful thinking.
And into this void stepped Cindy Sheehan. One woman, standing in the hot Texas sun, demanding answers from a man who believes he is accountable to no one.
Predictably, the right-wing screech monkeys have been working overtime to smear Sheehan and anyone associated with her. Granted, the bar is very, very low, but attacking a Gold Star Mother sets a new standard for vileness by the right.
Cindy Sheehan has vowed to stay in Crawford until Aug. 31 or until the President meets with her, whichever comes first. She may never get her meeting with him (she did meet with "two top Administration officials," whose names go unmentioned in press accounts. She may never get a straight answer from him. But she proves the validity of one of Mahatma Gandhi's most famous maxims: "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."
The war in Iraq will not end solely through the actions of one mother. Sheehan's vigil seems insignificant in the greater scheme of things, but it is important that she has done it.
She and her growing band of supporters aren't going to be going away any time soon. They have given a voice to the millions who demand an end to this war. They have cracked the media's silence on dissent. And they have shown the cruel arrogance of our vacationing president who is apparently too busy to answer a mother's concerns about an immoral, ill-advised war that took her son's life.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.