When mechanic Casey Sheehan died at 24, in a rain of Bagdad bullets and RPGs on April 4, 2004, his mother Cindy came a little bit more alive.
“After Casey died, I started to really investigate things more fully and I came to the conclusion that part of Casey’s death can be attributed to my ignorance or participation in a system that killed him,” says Sheehan via phone from her new home of San Francisco, before she arrives in Cleveland today for three days of appearances. “I can’t blame the system because it’s not genuine. If I’m asking people to be critical of the system, and then remove themselves, I also have to admit my codependence on that system. It all should be about making amends, trying to make the world a better place.”
She’s done a lot of soul-searching — two books’ worth so far. Another thing that’s clear now: A lot of people disagree on how to make the world a better place.
In the summer of 2005, she set up what became known as Camp Casey in a ditch up the road from Dubya’s Texas ranch, where he’d just begun another long stretch of vacation. She said she’d stay until she talked to the president. “I want to ask the president, ‘Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?” she told the building press corps. It was four weeks before some top aides came to talk, but the face-to-face with W never came. Thousands of others did, though, in ties and tie-dye. And so she started marching elsewhere with them. They always put her out front.
She wore a T-shirt that said “2,245 DEAD. HOW MANY MORE?” to Bush’s State of the Union speech in early 2006 and was removed by police. Her supporters swelled to the hundreds of thousands. She travelled the world to state her case to mostly supportive throngs; in between, she wrote her books, first Not One More Mother's Child, then (the recently updated) Myth America: 10 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution.
Both tomes, especially the latest, expose and dispel several myths about what she off-handedly calls our “military-industrial complex/Wall Street/Corporate Media government” — one that increasingly promotes fear, numbness and luxury to control and deplete the herd. Soma, anyone?
“I am an enemy of this system, not an enemy of America,” she explains. “I love my country. There’s so many good things in America. But we have to address the entire system, not just chunks, but the entire corrupt system. Look at how the robber-class media is saying, ‘Look at all those brave people in Iran standing up for their rights.’ They didn’t focus on our stolen elections. But they focused on Iran’s stolen elections. If we say our elections are stolen, we’re conspiracy theorists.” She laughs. “So, I am a declared enemy — an enemy of the U.S. military corporate empire, and it’s only to make it better. But, I don’t think we can make this system better. It can’t be reformed. I think we need new systems, and that’s what my book is about.”
She left the Dems in 2007, when they kept funding the Iraq war.
“I think Obama can be even more dangerous than George Bush,” she opines, “because he’s restored confidence for some in a system that’s corrupt and violent. He’s restored confidence in the U.S. Empire, which should be overthrown. We’re still over there, sending even more troops to Afghanistan. The slow withdrawal from Iraq? It’s not happening. And now they’re drone bombing in Pakistan. It’s not about who the president is, it’s about the system. So people always have to resist, not conform and have the wool pulled over their eyes again just because your guy’s in office.”
And besides, she says, “People say they’d like to see a third party, and I tell them, ‘It’d be nice to have two for a while.’”
Sheehan formally bowed out of her role at the front of the line a year or so back; she explained how she still has kids who didn’t die. But she started a fresh book tour in April, on the anniversary of Casey’s death. And on June 8, she couldn’t resist the temptation to lead a march through Bush’s posh new neighborhood outside of Dallas, just to see how the other side is hiding these days.
Wish her well at four separate appearances over the next three days: 2-4 p.m. Wednesday (July 8) at Mac’s Backs, 1820 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights; 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Akron’s main library, 60 High St.; 7-9 p.m. Thursday at St. Colman Church Hall at West 65th and Lawn Avenue in Cleveland; and noon-2 Friday, for her birthday party potluck at Edgewater State Park. Bang the drums, people. — Dan Harkins