I thought I would write about Cindy Sheehan and other grieving parents in the public eye. The sad truth is, every time a grieving parent is in the public eye, someone is trying to exploit them. That doesn't mean they don't have an agenda of their own (think of MADD), but that they don't get anything for free.
That said, having given myself some time, I am still appalled by the exploitation of Ms. Sheehan by those on all sides.
First, I'm not happy with those who are using her to promote an agenda -- for either side (either as a stalking horse or a free target). The one side should have more decency, the other hand should leave her out of things in their discussions.
Second, (in a very related way) I am offended by those who are using her as media fodder. The first group exploits directly, the second group exploits reactively. If you suffer grief, you may very well run into both kinds. The one seeks to turn you into a cypher, the second type seeks to make use of you as a cypher.
For those exploiting her, on the one hand they delight every time she is attacked. They revel in it. Every attack strengthens that group regardless of which side they are on (attacking or defending).
The second group feeds off of the attacks and makes them continue -- the term media circus has some real meaning in this instance, it is a circus. Either the second group is doing its best to help the first group, or the second group is exploiting Ms. Sheehan for their own benefit, or they are so clueless as to make one question their competence. Who sees any real analysis? Who sees any real kindness?
You will see the same thing in local news when a child dies of hard drugs or steroids in a high school and a parent speaks out.
If a thousand sons and daughters had died in Iraq (or perhaps 1853), leaving two thousand parents (drop some for orphans, add some for step parents) and only one of those parents acts out in what you consider a loopy fashion, should you conclude:
1) That one out of two thousand is a fully competent adult knowingly doing something crassly wrong who needs to be shamed and humiliated as an example for other grieving parents (I listened to a radio personality do just that, though when I called him on it, he backed off in a letter to me), or
2) They are suffering under the disability of grief and being exploited?
3) The person just wants media attention?
I suggest to you that if #1 is correct in the first half (a fully competent adult knowingly doing something), then people who say Cindy Sheehan is the most courageous woman in America and should be president may have something. If she is fully competent and knowing, then she may be right and she is definitely courageous. The more competent she is to face criticism, the more she acts from reason and knowledge rather than emotion and being exploited, the less she deserves any criticism.
If #2 is correct, attempts to shame them do nothing but feed and support those who are trying to use her to get attention -- and in a way that makes Sheehan look correct.
If #3 is right, any attention rewards them.
I think that public shaming attempts -- especially of a parent who has lost a child within the last year or so -- are useless, crass and exploitative, and do nothing but encourage those who would exploit the vulnerable. If the person just wants attention, it gives them the attention they crave in an atmosphere that provides them with enough positive voices that the public shaming attempt never reaches them and enables exploitation.
With each attack, the both sides are strengthened and those who have exploited Ms. Sheehan (if she is being propped up) are rewarded. Real dialogue, which this country needs, and real respect for death and loss and sacrifice, all of those are lost.
Now, as for someone who is exploiting a grieving parent, I think stringing someone along to make them a target for such public shaming attacks is evil and heartless. Drawing the poor family into things is sad.
I don't know Ms. Sheehan's heart and I've seen a lot on the war in Iraq to where I am unwilling to agree that she is correct or insist that she is wrong.
However, I can understand how she could believe as she does regardless if she has a noble or a crass purpose. I don't know how much of those feeding off of her, from both sides, raven like wolves attacking a wounded deer rather than are responsible for the wounding in the first place.
But I know that public shaming attempts against such a parent are useless, less than productive and shameful.
People who have buried children, when they make mistakes or act out in public, need first and foremost to be allowed space and quiet.
If her critics are truly right (if any of the critics of those in grief are right), what Ms. Sheehan needs and deserves is to be allowed her act in private.
If she is right, then what she really needs is people to make the issue about the dialogue and the concepts and thoughts and not about her.
Too often the grieving are exploited, by both sides (or all sides or any side) and then discarded. As human beings we deserve more both in the grieving and how we relate to it.
My two bits. I'll probably take this post down after a while, but I wanted to vent a little myself.
I was asked which blogs I would condemn as exploiting Cindy Sheehan. None. I do not see blogs as significant in what is going on in her case, and I do believe that there is plenty of room to comment and review without exploitation.
Maybe if I read more blogs, but I don't see them as a factor in what is going on with this example or with most grieving parents (other than the fact that many of them do have blogs).