The Power of The Ordinary

Category: World Affairs Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq Views: 3221

Cindy Sheehan, a grieving mother of 24-year-old son Casey, killed only days after joining his army unit in Iraq - is an ordinary woman with extraordinary bearings.

Two months after the untimely death of her son, in June 2004, she met President Bush, hoping to find comfort and answers to many daunting questions. After a disappointing meeting, she insisted on meeting him again to pose her simple, yet poignant and utterly consequential question: "Why did my son die? 

Expectedly, this question has been asked by thousands of grieving American families and in fact millions of Americans, many of whom have finally realized the dishonesty and absurdity of Bush's aimless war. 54 per cent of the American public, according to an August 7, 2005 nationwide CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll feel that the US administration has 'made a mistake' in sending troops to Iraq. 

But unlike the disapproving, yet largely hushed, or perhaps overlooked millions, the 48-year-old mother, Sheehan, hauled anguish beyond words and camped near Bush's Texas ranch. Initially, the White House completely ignored her pleas, simply devising alternative routes so that Bush wouldn't run into 'Camp Casey.' When Sheehan finally forced her story on to the media, Bush took notice, dispatching some of his officials to pacify the devastated mother with yet more empty rhetoric. She refused to leave. Her insistence drew nationwide attention, quickly crossing the line dividing the alternative media from that of the mainstream. Right-wing apologists swiftly inundated the media, desperately trying to control a narrative, so instinctively woven by an ordinary woman so incessant on challenging the meaning, or lack thereof, in her son's death. 

While the cliched understanding of the media's role in the US is that it is an open, unhindered and evenly representative forum, the sad, albeit unsurprising truth is that the US mainstream media has always been a one-sided, drum-beating, chest-pounding, war-mongering medium where self-serving politicians and businessmen often come together in sinful matrimony. It has, however, so unfairly, tainted the image of the American people, as irrational minds, blindly 'marching in support' behind the president, the troops, American Ideals' and so forth, as if the appalling values that molded the thinking of Bush's ideologues has also influenced the aspirations of ordinary Americans everywhere. 

Nonetheless, the sudden, yet invigorating appearance of Sheehan created a tidal wave that is, not only challenging the utterly deceptive rhetoric of the media's pro-military intervention pundits, but in fact re-launched the antiwar movement, whose absence left the case for war unchallenged. 

But still; while some champions of the anti-war movement are incapable of articulating a decisive and uncompromising agenda on ending the war in Iraq, Sheehan, this ordinary woman with a small tent, a few sandwiches and a cell phone has proven more unshakable than anti-war groups who claim tens of thousands of members. "We're over there and we need to come home," she told reporters on August 16. She contested the claim that 'leaving Iraq in chaos' is a non-option. "We need to let the Iraqi people handle their own business," she said, arguing, according to that "the US presence is the source of all violence there." Bush is the one responsible for her son's death, she said, as for "The person who killed my son, I have no animosity for that person at all." 

What makes Sheehan's story utterly powerful is that it comes from a member of society that has been merely qualified as 'ordinary', meaning a person of no bearing on the outcome of things, be it political or otherwise. But she is a woman, a mother and that too is a powerful message of revolutionary proportions. Women have erroneously been regarded as minor players in shaping what social scientists coined the 'public sphere.' 

The modern history of the US, moreover, the West in general, was devised by men, some argued, thus the narrative delineating that history finds it possible to exclude women. Women were only the subject of discussion within a particular role, within politics, religion or media, a supportive role that more or less was designated and narrated by men. Once again, ordinary people, and women in particular, found themselves irrelevant to the whole debate. They simply didn't matter. 

Cindy Sheehan's strong and uncompromising stand is changing that. Her solitary presence is giving vigor, reuniting and inspiring the anti-war movement (as it has been argued by many before me); but what I find even more important is that she has ascribed a different role to a cast of people that has historically been so marginalized, and unfairly so: ordinary women within ordinary surroundings. 

In the strict definition of the term however, I find nothing 'ordinary' about Cindy Sheehan. She is not a member of the elite, nor does she aspire to be. She wants to preserve her ordinariness, but has - willingly or not - chosen to redefine that seemingly innocuous designation. But Sheehan is not the only ordinary American standing against the war. 

All across America and across the world, millions of people defied the consensus to which such people are expected to subscribe. But in this age of typecast democracy, where only elitism -money, politics and thus power -determine the course, the cries of those millions have gone unanswered. And while the dominant few, along with their willing or brainwashed constituency dictate the cause and the cost of war, only the unimportant, and ordinary people like Cindy Sheehan's son pay the ultimate price and fall victim. The mother's challenge to President Bush to send his daughters to fight his ominous war in Iraq was not as extraneous as it may have seemed. 

Sheehan will eventually fold her tent and go home despite the unequalled value of every hour she spends in her worthy protest. The drums of war, through the mainstream media and their ever-detached analysts, will go on for a while longer. But the hope is that the power of the ordinary which has been revived in the efforts of Cindy Sheehan will always inspire others like her, for it is the absence of that power that keeps the fate of humanity in the hands of a few, who seem utterly apathetic regarding the fate of ordinary people, of Cindy Sheehan, and of her irreplaceable loss.

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist. A regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications, he is editor-in-chief of and program producer at Aljazeera Satellite Television.

He is also the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

To buy "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion" CLICK HERE

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq
Views: 3221

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Older Comments:
The best thing USA can do is to gracefully pull out from the ME allowing whatever local form of governace in stead. The region will be in turmoil for a while but the locals will sort out their differences in the end. Next step would be a business approach from the side of US with competitive offers to their exporting oil. The surplus of capital from not going to war would be used to build the infrastructure of the American cities and to emancipate the most destitute of America, the non-white and the non-Christian by creating workplaces and college programs that would sponser elements from the 'hood' or poverty stricken quarters of the US megacities. Furthermore, an anti-racism campaign should be initiated at all levels of government and public life, including the media. Then the total elimination of second class citizens and the mentality of "true American", meaning WASP and near American, meaning black, coloured, non-Christian, etc. Last but not least, a security system based on true and genuine information on discretely screaning US and foreign citizens, without the embarrassement at the border checkpoints of finger and toe printing, mug-shots and cavity searches. Once an individual passes a checkpoint his picture can be taken on a servailance camera(without posing express like a criminal under arrest in a police station). As for fingerprinting a signing electronic board would do. And this for every passing individual, US citizen, WASP or non-Wasp, any foreign citizen born or not born in the ME. Thus US would do her job (caused byn fear of terrorism) but would maintain a dignified face toward all the citizens of the world. I feel like gagging when I reflect that 1/2 a trillion dollars was used to kill innocent people in ME. My imagination cannot stop at my contemplation on what could have been done with this money for the welfare of the American people here at home in the USA!

My country Canada hasn't been attacked by nobody except USA a long time ago in the 1800's, we beat you out guys. If God forbid you try again, we'll beat you out that time too. Therefore you see, Canadians don't have a war agenda, like US and UK, we are a peaceful nation, the home of the Green Peace movement and Kyoto accord kibbitzers. We love peace, friendship and good life. Thanks God we have all of these due to our way of life and foreign politics. In other words, we are the best country in the world, while US is below comparison. The situation in New Orleans was described by the Canadian media like the 5th world. I feel pitty mixed with disgust about you intellect-confused and God-forsaken creatures living in the land of concealed modern days slavery. Very sad.

I understand you envy my leasure style of life that is shared by millions of Canadians of all religions there are in the world, but this is the way we are. We Canadians are fun lovers, jokers, like to live in style and put up a cute attitude. Unlike you bloody WASP Americans that are bile deseased and up against the whole world. Relax you fools, give peace a chance.

Iraq didn't have TV, water and electricity? On a business trip over there in 1989 my jaw fell at the splendour of Baghdad that New york and even Toronto could shun in its shadow. Do you realize the crap coming out of your mouth or you just find yourself opining when you don't have the facts? People on crack make more sense than you man! Document yourself before starting a topic, God you are lacking...


ROCKET said:
What I see is what you just told me. You are doing nothing but
watching and paying lipservice. Obviously you are watching main
stream media. Why would anyone base their Political Opinions or
their IQ on the main stream media, just boggles the mind. The
US didnt start the war..The US was attacked. and 5000+
innocent civilians (men, women, and children) were murdered in
the most cowardly way imagineable.
I am hearing and reading directly from Iraq..that they are
enjoying water supplies they never did before, and enjoying
electricity and TV and more freedom to travel around their own
cities than they ever did before their Murderous..Torturous
Dictator was removed from power. These are not my words,
these are the very spoken and written words of the Iraq Peole
themselves. But since all you are watching is main stream media,
then you are getting what you deserve, the same biased
ignorance that you spew. I don't feel sorry for the bed wetters
pay lipservice. but I do hear the voice of the Iraq people that the
main stream media doesnt report on, because it would do harm
to their agenda and smear campagine of a Republican president.
Obviously the media is largley democratic. I dont expect
Canadians to understand what this implies. You probably didn't
know that Sadam murdered and tortured his own people. Thats
ok too. You probably didn't know that Sadam used the water
supply and electric and other resources against his own people
in order to coerce them and keep them under his control. (this
comes from his very own people)
BTW, after I got out of the military after 10 years of service, I
have held only public safety jobs, first as a firefighter, then a
firefighter EMT..then an EMT paramedic, and now I am in Fire
and Safety Inspection. I dont expect you to understand any of
that either:)

My, my, my,...Rocket, you made the eagle scream, buddy. Quite an impressive military family. In the tradition of any fascist country, to be a soldier is to be the "upper" citizen. The more primitive a society the more need for brute force,i.d., the military body. I'm not talking about technological breakthroughs, I'm talking about humanity. I personally can't admire somebody that trained to kill, a soldier that is, of any kind. I could admire people that ded9icated their careers to saving lives and making this world a better place through their humanitarian work; not through their carpet and cluster bombing of innocent civilians in the hope that in the thousands killed would be a handful of culprits for whatever retaliation US was in for. A downright criminal act from US military's side. The US present government and its military are the most despicable political aparatuses in the history of mankind. Your pathetic claim that US would fight for freedom and liberation from dictatorship and tyrany is such a overplayed cliche by the White House that not even the janiter over there believes it. First of all, where there was order, US brought chaos. In Taliban Afghanistan there was law and order, not that I would approve with that sort of governace, but I don't approve with the present US administration either. US invaded Afghanistan overturned the ruling government and thus giving free will to rebel gangs of drug dealers and thugs that were pestering the peaceful population before the Taliban rule. In Iraq, there was law and order under Sadam Hussein, again not that I would favour that government, US invaded and all hell broke lose. No law, no government, no nothing. My country, dude, is free from American histeria and presidential idiocy. Nobody is or was there threatening to invade Canada. Nor was ever another country to attempt to do that since Pearl Harbour with USA as well. So what's your point? You are fighting for what? For the Iraqis? Like you cared for them?!

ROCKET said:
In the Immortal words of Hudd d'Aella "Tell me why, because I
couldn't figure it out if you shot me!"

That says it all.

Biography: My Grandfather served in the US Marines for 11 years
(1933 to 1944), He then served in the USAF from 1945 to 1957.
His Son, my Uncle served in the Army from 1960 to 1970. My
Brother and I served in the USAF - Brother from 1979 to 1995. I
served 1980 to 1990. My Niece is Stationed in IRaq in the USAF.
My Son is in the US Marines and will be deployed Dec 2005. We
are a family who love together and fight for what we believe in
together. If ANY of us were to die fighting for the freedom of our
country..or YOUR country from Tyranny, Dictatorship,
Persecution, and oppression or any other personal freedom such
as your freedom to jump on Cindy's bandwagon, my family
knows why before hand. Personally, I think the Islam world
should be hunting down their own criminals. Not the rest of the
world. What is Islam doing...what are YOU

ROCKET said:
Hudd, Your last sentence in your comment says it all.......

Wow, Rocket, you are quite a hero! A mouth service hero! Stop trying to bully those that think and thus ask. There are people like cattle, they go where they are driven. There are people like dogs, they need to know what's going on. There are people like cats, they don't give a flying poop on what's going on as long as it doesn't affect them directly. The people people want to know, understand and justify that what is going on. Cindy Sheehan is the beginning of an awaken consciousness. She's the tiny mustard seed that eventually will grow into a tree, insha'allah(God willing). By the way Shuttle, how many kids of your own you have fighting in Iraq? Even better, such a patriot like yourself, what the heck are you doing in your backyard? Rush to register and fly out to Iraq on the first Cargo plane. Didn't the message yet reach you? Bush needs you. The army is dwindling and their moral is fallen, like an angel that singed its wings in the hellfire! Man, talk is cheep, go lose aneye or a leg or even better your life in Iraq and then we will either listen to what you have to say or bury you with honours. The question would still linger: What on earth did you die for? Higher fuel prices? Crappier economy? More hatred against your country in the world? More blood and innocent lives on your conscience? Tell me why, because I couldn't figure it out if you shot me!

Well, lets put this simply. The entire theme of the article is that
Cindy posted a valid question to the President, which of course
was not valid. If Cindy had ANY kind of relationship with her
son, she would have known "why her son died". If she took the
time to find out what her son believed in, what her son's moral
strength was, what drove her son to "act" and not just flap their
gums like everyone else (including herself), then she would
never have had to ask such an empty selfish question. If
Someone asked "why did the Shuttle blow up?" it is because that
person has no connection to the inner workings of the shuttle or
its program. If Someone asks "why does the tower of pizza
lean?" it is because they have no personal relationship with the
construction of the tower or the geography around it. Obviously
Cindy is not "privy" to a personal relationship with her son in any
way, or she would know "why" he died and "why" he joined the
military (since he was not drafted), and "why" he felt compelled
to be a part of our military, a group of people who take action,
not stand by and wait for others to "do FOR them". Take a good
look at yourself Cindy, why does ANYONE die?

i admire this brave humanbeing,,,if only we realised how powerful we can all be