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Commentary: The Roar of Cindy Sheehan

By Roxanne Amico

Buffalo, NY – I can't get Cindy and Casey Sheehan off my mind. Their names raise questions about why I listen to the news; their story reminds me of other stand offs in history in which public figures were held to account; their cause gives pause to reflect on the meaning of a fullfilling life.

Radio, T.V., and print media exist to share our lives. We pay attention to the news to hear others' stories, gathering the fragments of our own lives and finding direction. So this is a story of a woman named Cindy who had a son named Casey. He believed in life as a calling, and lived to serve in and out of the Army. He re-enlisted when the attack on Iraq began. Casey believed he was serving a righteous cause when he was killed on a rescue mission five days after arriving in Iraq. The president apologized to Cindy; thanked her for her son's service. Then the news showed us that the "just" and "noble" reasons for the war were not true at all. This is important because the reason for communicating our stories isn't simply to satisfy some consumer urge for drama we have. Our nature is to act with compassion on what we learn. Ms. Sheehan now stands vigil outside the president's Crawford, TX ranch for a new conversation based on the updated information we all have regarding the war on Iraq.

Witnessing Cindy's vigil, I try to think about my life as service when I think about my own mother. In choosing motherhood as her life's work, my mother offers to the world what she has to give: Her children. Four years ago my mother apologized to me for bringing me into the kind of world Mr. Bush began threatening to create following 9/11. I told her she needn't apologize, thanking her for my life, in which I serve by offering my gifts. Cindy can never hear this from her son Casey, whose path was modeled in part by his mother's example of service. But she continues to give what she has: Her courage, passion; love of her son; her love of life. She serves us all by challenging a man to admit that his errors are causing the wrongful deaths of thousands -- to stop it from happening to others.

Cindy Sheehan's a parent who's lost a son, but one needn't be a parent to imagine: She's any person who knows they'd be called a traitor, as if this were a totalitarian state, but acts as a citizen in a democracy; any human being whose humanity becomes larger than one's own life in the process of grieving, who says, "This pain is too much, I cannot carry it alone, I need company, won't you please help?" Folksinger Country Joe McDonald's new song, "Support the Troops" has a line that expresses well this empathy: "Gold Star Mothers... Left with nothing but a folded flag/Feel their pain, it could be you!" Cindy is you, she is me, and she is a wise, wise woman whose commitment to healing is profound enough to show that this thing that is happening -- this grievous war -- is happening to us all.

Cindy's in Crawford to get an audience with the president. She gained more: She has the world as audience, waiting for the president to find the courage and dignity to face an angry, grieving mother; the face of a growing number of Americans. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, AL. About that event which helped set off the civil rights era, Ms. Parks said, "I kept thinking about my mother and grandparents and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others..." This is a piece of US history from which George Bush can learn. He says Ms. Sheehan and her supporters have a right to our opinions. We know that. He doesn't seem to know that, as an elected official in a democracy, he has a responsibility to ACT in accord with our expectations; to learn from our shared humanity. At this point, the president has a chance to redeem himself by ending the destruction, bringing the troops home, and do what he is asking others to do: Serve the world by peacefully achieving US interests... To do, in fact, what Cindy is doing.

Listener-commentator Roxanne Amico is a visual artist who stands with Women in Black. You can view her artwork at www.spiritmorphstudio.com.