To all who still believe in the noble cause of this war and that the troops are trying to protect and defend the country
-- may they be spared to learn the truth the hardest possible way by losing a spouse or a childA Simple
Question and the Power of Shameby Steven Laffoley
Published on Thursday, August 18,
2005 by CommonDreams.org
For nearly two weeks, sitting on a roadside, in the heat of the Texas sun, amid a growing,
raucous circus of supporters, detractors, and media mouthpieces, bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan has done something many thought
not possible in America anymore: she has reminded us of shame.
She has done this by asking a simple question: why did my son have to die? And by asking that question, she has revealed
something that has come as a surprise to many Americans: the president has no morally defensible answer.
As a consequence, many Americans who have long believed President Bush's chest thumping and bible thumping to be moral
character and moral righteousness can only stare with something close to wide-eyed wonder and genuine humility at the real
How do I know Ms. Sheehan's moral character and moral righteousness are the "real thing"?
Because, unlike so many before her who dared to criticize the president and his administration for their inglorious rush
to war, Ms. Sheehan has not been so easily dismissed as a caricature of the radical left or dissuaded to speak by the Rovian-style
outings of family members' feelings or irrelevant personal matters. Indeed, nothing said or done by President Bush or his
political chop shop machine to date has managed to snuff out Ms. Sheehan's most brilliant light of honesty and truth in this
dark age of unreason. Her simple question reminds us that real moral character and moral righteousness offer us a formidable
high ground, not so easily assailed.
Consider: in response to Ms. Sheehan's simple question, and to her request to meet and talk, the president claims he is
mindful of Ms. Sheehan's concerns, but declines to meet saying, "I've got a life to live and will do so." But why not answer
her question about a war he believes is so just?
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News says Ms. Sheehan "is associating with the most radical elements in this country, " and that Americans
"don't have time for extremism." But what is so extreme about asking a simple question and politely waiting for an answer?
Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report says Ms. Sheehan supports Palestinians, won't pay her taxes, "gets support from her son
Andy," doesn't have the support of many family members, and has "dramatically changed her story." But what has any of this
to do with her simple question?
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says of Ms. Sheehan's story, "There's nothing about it that's real, including the mainstream
media's glomming onto it. It's not real...It's the latest effort made by the coordinated left." But what is not real about
losing a son to war and asking why?
Because Ms. Sheehan's simple question has such moral clarity, moral authority, and moral certainty, these attacks only
draw more attention to Ms. Sheehan's moral character and moral righteousness. And not surprisingly, not one of her attackers
wants to provide an answer to Ms. Sheehan's question. Not one wants to address the truth. Because the truth is this: Ms. Sheehan's
son died for no morally defensible reason.
Ms. Sheehan's question - and the yawning, silent absence of an answer from the president - reminds us, so clearly, that
those who support this war have failed morally. And with that moral failure comes guilt. And humiliation. And dishonor.
By asking this simple question of the president - and by showing extraordinary courage and grace under fire from the president
and his supporters while waiting for an answer - Ms. Sheehan reminds us that young men and women should never die in war,
but when they do, the reasons for it must be morally defensible.
By asking this simple question of the president, Ms. Sheehan is asking us to remember shame.
Steven Laffoley is the author of Mr. Bush, Angus and Me: Notes of an American-Canadian in the Age of Unreason. You may e-mail him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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