6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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20050812

Have Cause; Will Travel - Extremists For Hire

In March 1973 I was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps. After landing in Boston from Los Angeles, I took a Greyhound bus to my hometown of Pittsfield, Mass. When the bus pulled into the depot, I observed a rather large crowd across the street with large signs protesting the Vietnam War. One sign said: “Make love, not war.” Another sign depicted Uncle Sam in a wheelchair. “I Want Out,” was its proclamation. But one sign just about made me feel like getting off the bus right then and there and grab the puny, candy ass puke by the throat who was holding it: “We Refused To Serve; So Should Have You.”

It seemed peculiar that people would still be protesting a war that was basically over. When I stepped off the bus in full uniform, I was not prepared for what happened next. The crowd began chanting, “Baby killer, baby killer,” in rhythmic succession. These people knew nothing about me, never met me, didn't know whether I actually served in Vietnam or not, but because I was in uniform, they carried on as if I were the enemy. And then somebody hurled a beer bottle that just missed me. I hurriedly threw my duffle bag into the trunk of the cab, and headed for home. It was not the kind of reception I had expected, and I didn’t quite know what to think of being referred to as “a baby killer,” let alone having something tossed at me. After I got home, I quickly changed out of my uniform. Whatever pride I had felt in serving my country was gone.

With the event of 9/11 it is good to see that attitudes have changed toward our young men and women who serve in the armed forces. The year that followed 9/11 ushered in a wave of patriotism that showed to the world our determination to remain steadfast and resolute as a united people. It was a determination of a people not experienced since WWII, but unlike that time it seems that we are beginning to weaken in our conviction to stay the course, no matter what. Indeed it seems that perhaps we are not a patient people after all, and with continuous reporting of servicemen and women killed in action, we are beginning to show a weakening in our courage to finish the fight that was brought to us with the attack on the World Trade Center.

Lately I have been watching the news, and following the updates on Cindy Sheehan who has camped herself just outside of President Bush’s Crawford, Texas home to protest the death of her son. I sympathize with her loss and can only imagine her grief. The death of a child or loved one is the most painful human experience of all. However, her grief has not been a quiet protest, and as such, she now has over 50 people who have taken up her cause by camping out with her, and helping her with her protests. They have planted little white crosses by the roadside to emphasize how many of our young people in the armed forces die each day as they fight “the war on terrorism.” And as I watch the people who have taken up her cause, the people who stand next to her red, white, and blue bus emblazoned with the slogan, “Impeachment Tour,” I am reminded again of how I felt that day I returned home in 1973.

And just as back then, the angry voices of the anti-war protesters begin chanting: “W killed her son! W killed her son!” But as there was nothing tragic or heroic about the protests of the Vietnam War, neither is there anything tragic or heroic about Sheehan’s protests, nor her cause. What’s worse is that it’s a pathetic display of a mother’s tragic loss. Instead of honoring her son’s death, she instead blames the President ad hominum by declaring him to be the “biggest terrorist of all.”

Amid the chants and the mother’s protests, it seems that the real story that should be told here is being completely ignored. After volunteering to go on a patrol with seven other men to help rescue 19 men whose convoy had come under attack by Iraqi insurgents, her son, Casey, was killed during an ambush. He didn’t have to go; he chose to go--to heed the call of duty. Now there’s an interesting concept but not one easily grasped or understood in a culture of people who expect drive-through results with their convictions. And so when the media attention begins to wane and people have decided they have read and heard enough of Cindy Sheehan, who will the extremists find next, vulnerable and willing, to have their cause taken up.

By S. L. Cunningham