The Voice of a Mother is Powerful
An interview with Cindy Sheehan by Sarah van Gelder
SARAH: After you lost Casey, in Iraq, what made you decide to speak out about the war? Why did you think you could make a difference?
A Nation Rocked to Sleep
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
CINDY: It was my daughter’s poem, A Nation Rocked to Sleep, that made me ashamed of myself for not speaking out sooner. I did not think that one person could make a difference, but I thought I would try or I would die trying. I wanted to show people the pain of having a child killed in a needless war and to have people wake up. Most Americans are against this war, but we have to translate our opposition to the war into activism that can affect policy.
SARAH: In your travels around the world, what are you hearing from the people you encounter?
CINDY: People tell me that before they heard of me, they didn’t realize that there were people in the U.S. against the war. And they say that it gives them hope when they see that Americans aren’t just rolling over any more, we are trying to take our country back and get our troops out of Iraq, and we truly care, not just about our country, but about the world.
SARAH: In the foreword to your book, Greg Ruggiero calls you Mom Laureate, Subcomandante Momus, Nobel Peace Mom, Dr. Mom, Jr., Mahatma Mom …
CINDY: He’s such a weirdo!
SARAH: So, what is it about a mother’s voice that has such power?
CINDY: The voice of a mother is powerful not because not everybody is a mother, but everybody has a mother. You can remember when your mom went to advocate for you at the principal’s office or with a neighbor. Your mom is always there for you; she always loves you unconditionally. There are some people who sneer at me and attack me, and I think that that is really off base, because even if I wasn’t a mom, I am an American and I have a right to do this.
SARAH: You’ve used the term matriotism. Can you talk about what that means to you?
CINDY: The industrial-military complex and the war profiteers use a false sense of patriotism to get our children involved in the military or to get our country to support needless wars of aggression, for profit. From the time we’re in school learning the Pledge of Allegiance, we are told our country is the greatest country on Earth and it’s worth dying for. We are taught that we are supposed to love this territory and these false borders more than we love ourselves as human beings. Matriotism is the love of all human beings, no matter where they live. And a matriot would never send her own children or anybody else’s children to kill other people’s children and die in needless wars. It is not a matriarchy in the sense of a society that’s ruled by women. It’s a society that’s ruled by the heart and love and integrity, no matter what gender you happen to be born or no matter what side of the border you are born on.
SARAH: We are talking on June 2nd as more news is coming in about massacres of civilians in Iraq by American soldiers. What is it like for you, when you hear these stories?
CINDY: Our kids are being driven to do things that they would have never thought of doing before; they’re turning into people we don’t even know. This is what war does to people. This entire invasion, war, and occupation of Iraq is a crime against humanity. The only people being punished for these crimes are privates and specialists. The people who started this, the war criminals in D.C., are the ones who should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
SARAH: You’ve come to a different understanding of the role that the United States is playing in the world through your experience. How did you come to that view?
CINDY: I had barely used my passport before my son was killed. Now, traveling around the world, I realize what war is all about and what we have an army for. It is basically to make the world safe for our corporations and to spread corporate colonialism and to enrich the war machine and to line people’s pockets. General Smedley Butler said: “War is a racket, it always has been, it always will be.” Our kids are used as cannon fodder and pawns in these games for power, control, and money.
SARAH: You’ve challenged President Bush to identify the noble cause that your son died for. What noble cause do you think might bring our country together? What’s a noble cause we might live for?
CINDY: Peace. One of the prophets in the Old Testament said: "Beat the swords into plow shares." That is a noble cause. A noble cause is taking the money out of the Pentagon and putting it into our communities, making everybody feel loved and supported and educated and building a society where everybody from small children to leaders of countries solve problems nonviolently. That’s the noble cause. My son died to make this a reality, and I will work until I die to make it a reality. And I believe that is the noble cause.
SARAH: I hear Camp Casey is going to happen again this summer in Crawford, Texas. Are you looking forward to it?
CINDY: I am so looking forward to it! It is like going home. I have a place in Berkeley, where my stuff stays, and I don’t go there very often. It’s a small apartment, where I am by myself. When I go to Camp Casey, I am home with my family and people who are like-minded, and it’s a peaceful society where we all strive together and work for the common good.
SARAH: What has this experience been like for your three children Carly, Andy, and Jany?
CINDY: Well, I can’t speak for them, but I can speak to my relationship with them. It’s been difficult, and it’s been mostly trying to deal with their brother’s death, and then to do as much as I can for them. And everybody is realizing that we are doing this for all the world’s children now.
SARAH: What sustains you?
CINDY: I am not exactly sure, but I do have a lot of strength and a lot of energy. I am on an airplane at least four times a week. I can’t stand thinking that there are innocent Iraqis and American soldiers dying because of lies and deceptions. It is so urgent that we do everything we can to bring this travesty to an end. And I get lots of hugs, lots of love, and lots of support.
You can learn about Cindy’s fast, with dozens of others, to stop the Iraq War and other anti-war activities through the Gold Star Families for Peace and Code Pink www.codepinkalert.org. Poem reprinted with permission from How to Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism, edited by Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin.
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