My Turn: Sheehan’s questions are meaningful
On Aug. 19, I participated in an event which the mainstream media might regard as equal in importance to a tree falling in the forest.I was informed of this gathering by a group called MoveOn, who sent me an e-mail on my computer. I have dealt with MoveOn before and believe such groups are important in this age of obfuscation and denial in the highest levels of our government. But is not my place here to defend a large network of committed individuals. I am more impressed by the local group of individuals who gathered quietly, almost reverently, with their lighted candles that Thursday evening.A few people, 60 perhaps, standing in front of Starbuck’s in Truckee. A mixed group, primarily white-haired, male and female, couples and singles, second-home owners and locals of many years duration.Some already knew others present, but most came together for the first time. We were drawn to that place because of a shared concern – the image on TV of a grieving mother who had lost her son in a war without precedent fought under unwritten rules by a nation claiming to be a “nation of laws.” Drawn, too, by the news that our leader, the president of the United Sates, who at the time was based but a few miles from the mother’s roadside tent in the heat of a Texas summer, had refused to meet with this woman, refused to meet in spite of her obvious justification for this extreme act, who had only the need to have her questions answered by the man who was the only person who might be in a position to answer them.Has life descended to this amount of uncaring? Have we become so obsessed and consumed by our power that the individual no longer matters, that a human being – American, Iraqi, white, black, Christian, Judaic, Muslim, Hispanic, Oriental, Native American, Aborigine – no longer matters? And the individual’s concerns particularly when death is the topic, merely a matter of collateral damage?Those are the questions I would like to ask the president. Cindy Sheehan’s questions are more specific and, I would say, more meaningful. I have sons, too, and thankfully they have never had to face warfare. But I can feel for the plight of Cindy Sheehan, as I’m sure even those who proclaim their patriotism repeatedly, and proudly paste ribbons on their automobiles echoing that response, must share. Our children, after all, to paraphrase an old commercial slogan, are our most important product. When that commercialism overtakes humanity, however, this country is in deep trouble. The deaths of our individual men and women in Iraq have now grown to nearly 2,000 and must be regarded as more than a statistic, more than collateral damage. They join the military, as have often been stated, voluntarily. But for reasons of patriotism, idealism, and in today’s skewed economy – out of need. Isn’t it time for the rest of us to show that kind of idealism?The Truckee group continues to meet weekly for their vigils against the war in Iraq. And Cindy Sheehan continues her protest now joined by thousands. In the spirit of many protests of our past in America, she is taking her group to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24, with her still-unanswered questions for President Bush.But to get back to that tree falling in the forest. I predict there’ll be little coverage of the 1,600 gatherings like the one in front of Truckee’s Starbuck’s. I also think our president won’t meet with Mrs. Sheehan, because it would not be good public relations for “the noble cause.” But living for many years in the Sierra, I’ve watched how trees are propagated -their seeds drop to the ground at this time of year, pine cones follow and soon new trees sprout and grow.The next question is can we wait for that to happen? Barbara Richnak is a 31-year resident, a mother, and a published writer. “My Turn” is a space for Sierra Sun readers to submit guest columns that are between 500 and 850 words. Send “My Turn” columns to email@example.com.
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