Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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August 16, 2005

I wasted way too much time on AlterNet this morning; as usual, it wasn't the reading that wrecked my schedule, it was the writing. I had to (devil made me do it) post responses to two threads, both about Cindy Sheehan, outspoken mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. Not to distract from Ms. Sheehan's grief, or to discount the possibility that her testimony before Congress and audiences across the country might help bring the current insanity to an earlier end, but I'm somewhat bemused by the eagerness of some LPLs (liberals, progressives, and leftists) to kiss the ground that Cindy Sheehan walks on.

Without for an instant denying Cindy Sheehan's courage, eloquence, and perseverance, perhaps we could devote a little time to exploring why she's become the undisputed darling of some LPLs. Perhaps these LPLs have forgotten (or never learned) the dangers of relying too heavily on the "mom card"? Over the decades feminists have learned the limitations of this ploy. Rely too heavily on potential or actual maternity to claim your place at the political table and pretty soon you'll find that you're only heard if you speak as an actual or potential mother.

Could this outburst of Cindyism have anything to do with the huge, sucking LPL leadership vacuum? Or with the fact the LPLs seem to be stuck in react-react-react mode? Or maybe it's just that embracing the serendipitous hero of the hour offers more immediate gratification than organizing from the grassroots, developing theories and strategies, and putting our ideas to work?

"Obiwan Kenobi, you are my only hope!"

"Jesus, come save us!"

The upside is that if the LPLs think a bit about their eagerness to rally round and embrace Cindy Sheehan, they might get some much-needed insight into why, in these uncertain times, religions that preach salvation by divine intervention are so popular.

The prefatory note to Jeffrey Feldman's "The Success of the 'Grieving Mom'" claims that "Cindy Sheehan has done much more than galvanize the antiwar movement; she signals a political tidal wave soon to crash down on the President's foreign policy." (Well, there's an image worthy of a millenarian Christian!) Feldman's first paragraph goes like this: "In broad terms, the success of the 'grieving mom' phrase indicates that Americans are now thinking about the War in Iraq through the frame of the family, rather than thinking about Iraq through the frame of 'terrorism' or 'ideology.'"

Too bad the Democrats didn't come up with the "grieving mom" (or "grieving dad," or "grieving kid") strategy during the heyday of Mergers & Acquisitions, when families -- not to mention communities, and the whole country -- were being destroyed by the wholesale layoffs that helped underwrite corporate shenanigans that benefited only shareholders and the corporate bigwigs.

If the Dems adopt the "grieving mom" strategy, what's the most likely outcome? Let me look in my crystal ball here. Aha! Millions upon millions of USians who think that the only thing wrong with the war on Iraq is that U.S. citizens died in it. Sound familiar? You bet -- that's what millions upon millions of USians think was the only thing wrong with the Vietnam War: U.S. citizens died in it, and we lost.

Sorry, I think Jeffrey Feldman's "strategy" is short-sighted at best. (My crystal ball also shows dozens upon dozens of Democratic "leaders" latching on to it because it will enable them to weasel out of addressing the causes of the debacle, including their own gutlessness.) Mr. Feldman has framed his own little war: Cindy Sheehan, with Himself as her champion, vs. those bad out-of-touch consultants, with whom Himself has, need I say, nothing in common. ("What, nothing?" "No, nothing!" "What, nothing?" "Well -- hardly anything!")

According to his byline, Jeffrey Feldman is affiliated with Frameshop. According to the Frameshop website, Jeffrey Feldman is Frameshop. Frameshop sounds to me like a sort of "spin hospital," where all the spin doctors go to practice their prestidigitatory techniques. At a magic show, lighting, sound, and props are all devoted to making us see what the magician wants us to see. When we want to know what's really going on, we watch the shadows. With Mr. Feldman and his fellow framemakers, we'd do well to do likewise: Look outside the frame.

Jeffrey Feldman's story can be found at

Also worth reading is Tom Engelhardt's "Cindy, Don, and George"


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