On the road to Crawford | AspenTimes.com

On the road to Crawford

Andy Stone

I suppose almost everyone knows – or ought to know – about Cindy Sheehan. No, she’s not a reality show contestant, a runaway bride or a corrupt CEO. She’s the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, and she has set up an anti-war vigil outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas.Sheehan says she wants to talk to the president and that she is going to stay right there, camped by the side of a dirt road, until Bush meets with her. And if that doesn’t happen before his five-week Texas vacation is over, she says she’ll follow him back to Washington, D.C., and camp outside the White House.There are, of course, widely differing views on what Sheehan is doing. And, to be honest, I can understand both sides, at least a little.As a U.S. citizen, Sheehan has a right to confront the president and (as the Bill of Rights puts it) “petition for a redress of grievances.” As a mother whose son was killed in Mr. Bush’s war, her grievance carries some serious weight. Her loss is deep and personal and that has to count.Moreover, Sheehan is speaking for millions of people who oppose the war – people whose objections have been ignored.On the other hand, I understand that the president of the United States cannot be expected to meet personally with every citizen who has a grievance to redress. He cannot meet with everyone who objects to his foreign policy. Sadly, the president cannot meet with the family of every U.S. soldier who has died in Iraq. (Indeed, if he tried to meet with the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children of the 1,800-plus troops who have died since the March 2003 invasion, he really wouldn’t have time for almost anything else.)Still, for all that both sides have valid points, something that happened on the road to Crawford this week is so revealing that it has to be singled out.Some of Sheehan’s supporters have set up rows of small wooden crosses by the side of the road. The crosses are inscribed with the names of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. Many have been decorated with flowers in memory of those lost lives. It is, no matter who erected it, a memorial to the war dead.A few days ago, a Crawford resident who strongly supports President Bush showed his support by driving his pickup truck through that field of crosses, destroying hundreds of them.Let’s stop for a moment and think about that.Those crosses were sacred symbols, set up to honor men and women who have given their lives in service to their country.One of the hallmarks of this particular war has been that those who oppose the war have been very outspoken in their support for the troops. That has been in sharp contrast to the Vietnam War era, when protesters sadly let their hatred of the war spill over into hatred of the solders fighting that war – many of whom were draftees, serving there against their will.And yet, here was a man who supports the war, so deranged by his hatred of those who oppose the war that he desecrated a memorial to the war dead. Imagine for a moment if that memorial had been set up by a supporter of the war and it had been an anti-war protester who had destroyed it. I can picture a lynch mob forming outside the Crawford jail.How telling – and how sad – that many who support the war have felt they have to attack Sheehan personally. Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly said Sheehan’s “behavior borders on treasonous.”How telling – and how strange – that support for the war has broken lose from its moorings and become unreasoning support for the president. They support the man, not the principle.How telling – and how painful – that support for the war is now leading some people into such depths of rage that they lose sight of what they’re actually doing. They support the war by desecrating a memorial to the war dead.It adds an extra twist, an extra sadness, if we note that the man who destroyed those crosses was, in fact, a Vietnam veteran, someone who ought to have known firsthand that support for the troops and honor for the war dead must rise above partisanship.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com