One of the oddest accusations to come out of the Sheehan phenomenon is that this mother is "exploiting" her son's death and her own grief. I've thought about this for a couple of days, and the illogic of this argument is not settling down. In fact, it's becoming more crazy-making the more I think about it.The logic (if you can call it that) in this "exploitation" argument is thus: If a tragedy befalls an individual and the individual decides to devote every action of her being to ensuring no other human being suffers this same tragedy, she's ... exploiting? Huh?
By this analysis, Christopher Reeve was "exploiting" his injury by advocating for cures for spinal injuries. MADD members are "exploiting" the deaths of their children by pushing for stronger punishments and deterrents of drunk drivers. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is "exploiting" a sister's death by raising money for breast cancer research through its highly successful Race for the Cure series. And so on. You get the drift.
Conversely, it's always represented to me the height of maturity and courage to be able to take a private grief and turn it into something public, something bigger, something more heroic and true than a personal, massive sorrow. I know that I simply will not be able to survive the death of one of my children in any sort of shape that will allow me to become a spokesperson for a cause, no matter how righteous that cause is. As it is, I have trouble sustaining discipline and energy for something as straightforward as blogging a couple of times a week. If one of my kids goes, I assure you that I will crawl into a corner of the universe and emotionally die. You will not hear from me again; I know this well because for 16 years I've had a child living on the edge of this life-death deal with a congenital heart defect and numerous (mostly unsuccessful) surgical interventions. Sorry, I've looked into my soul and I cower in the dark of night. You won't find me as a poster woman for the American Heart Association any time soon. Just breathing will be considered a victory.
How many of us, if faced with the death of a child, would be able to muster the courage, grace and energy to make public appearances on behalf of other people's children? And how many of us could do so while being demonized relentlessly and our private lives examined in detail? Sheehan's words and acts are never going to bring her son back. She knows that. This is by no means a silly woman.
But my God, she's a heroic one. As surely every thinking parent on this planet knows, deep in their hearts.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Sheehan + "Exploitation" = Bullshit
I've read dozens and dozens of rebuttals to the "Cindy Sheehan is exploiting the memory of her dead son" arguments in recent days, but I think this one cuts to the heart of it: