Over the past couple days, I've discovered that any criticism of Cindy Sheehan in a liberal discussion forum will be met with several people immediately feeling compelled to remind me that Cindy lost a son in Iraq. So let's get that out of the way in this rant: I stipulate that Cindy Sheehan's son was killed in an illegal, stupid war.
I follow my stipulation by mentioning--nay, by ranting--that I am about as thoroughly sick of Cindy Sheehan as anyone can be, and I wish her all the luck in the world in her pursuit of what I hope will be a nondescript retirement.
"Oh, Steve," you say, "you're so cold. After all, remember, she lost a--" no, do not use that as an argument, because it isn't. Appeals to emotion are not arguments. And if the death of Cindy's son is an effective argument for why she has some special say on the war in Iraq, then it is equally the case that a pro-war mother who has lost a son in Iraq has an absolutely equal case for being heard as a legitimate spokesperson. What we have to do as a body of liberals is to figure out what we would do with any other member of this body that wrote a diary, as Ms. Sheehan has, in which we proclaim that we are "retiring" from Daily Kos. We would immediately be derided for writing yet another in a long string of "Goodbye Cruel Kos" diaries, stretching back to this site's founding. People would take it for what it was: a cheap attempt to gain some sympathy for some alleged wrong done to the diarist by those whom the diarist mistakenly believes are required to brook no dissent or disagreement with the diarist's superior point-of-view.
Well, I don't buy it. I have had misgivings about Cindy Sheehan as the "face of the anti-war movement" since her genesis. The death of a child can certainly be a legitimate motivation for activism, but the problem for Cindy was that Casey's death didn't act as motivation for Cindy to oppose the Iraq War--it acted as motivation for her to oppose the death of her son. And that's a completely different thing. Cindy wasn't camped outside of Crawford to berate the president for an illegal, stupid war. She was camped outside of Crawford because she claimed she "had questions" about why her son died in that war. That doesn't make Casey a motivation and a spur to action. It makes him a fetish and a totem, and personally I find that repugnant.
Cindy followed up her original activism by getting swept along in a string of bone-headed decisions, including being used as a prop by Hugo Chavez. You may love the fact that Chavez wants to give this country's poor cheap oil. You may be less inclined to give him a group hug now that he has shut down a major media outlet that was critical of his administration.
So Cindy has decided to "retire" from her activism. That's great. It must truly be wonderful for one's activism to be such that one can retire it when one wishes. It gives one's followers the sense that their leader wasn't all that serious about the mission in the first place. And personally, the cynic in me--and the cynic in me has a lion's appetite--wonders if this is indeed the last we will be hearing from Cindy Sheehan, or if, as seems more likely, the psychic caresses that she has now gotten in a diary with 850 postings will now smooch away all those boo-boos that she apparently got from some mean ol' bloggers over there on Democratic Underground.
People who go into public service can expect to get knocked around. That's one of the things that people ask themselves before they jump into that fishbowl: can they withstand the heat from the stage lights, or are they likely to fall off the edge into the orchestra pit? If they aren't ready for part of the audience to heckle, then they probably want to reconsider their activism.