Topic: Decline of the West
We’re supposed to believe that until Donald J. Trump appeared on the political scene, America’s Gold Star families were “sacrosanct.” (See, for example, this piece by Ben Shapiro for National Review.) And it’s certainly true that Trump, as a candidate and now as president, has played a large part in the politicization of sacrifice. But really it hasn’t been confined to Trump, nor is it anything new. During the 2016 campaign there was the case of Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen soldier who, from behind the shield of his Gold Star status, launched a partisan attack on Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Yes, Trump’s response, intemperate and insulting, poured additional gasoline on that particular bonfire. But I wondered at the time: If a Gold Star parent himself doesn’t honor his special status, where will it end?
Then along came Representative Frederica Wilson, Democrat of Florida, who spotted an opportunity to exploit the grief of a grieving Gold Star family for partisan political purposes. Once again, Trump’s response only made a bad situation worse. But his behavior, unacceptable though it is, ought not to blind us to Wilson’s cynical, hypocritical manipulation of Myeshia Johnson, heartbroken over the death of her husband and at a loss for answers. Wilson’s subsequent preening—celebrating her “rock star” status & etc.—was enough to gag a maggot.
All this didn’t begin with Khizar Khan or Myeshia Johnson, however. Before either of those sorry incidents there was the case of Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son was killed in Iraq in 2004, on George W. Bush’s watch.
Cindy Sheehan’s leftist political views, the shock and sorrow attendant on her son’s death and, probably, some deep-seated emotional problems combined to make her a vocal and virulent critic of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of President Bush personally. She called him a warmonger, a war criminal and a mass murderer. She claimed that the war in Iraq was all about imperialism and oil. She condemned America itself as a quasi-fascist imperialist power. Needless to say, the antiwar movement loved all this. Sheehan was embraced, praised and promoted by antiwar activists. They called her “Mother Sheehan,” the conscience of the nation. And for a time she really was the face and voice of the movement as a whole.
But with the passage of time Cindy Sheehan’s rhetoric became more and more extreme and her behavior increasingly erratic. It was a painful thing to watch. In the name of common decency Sheehan’s acting-out ought to have been passed over in silence. This, indeed, was President Bush’s policy, despite his being the frequent target of her virulent rhetoric. But no. The antiwar movement, the Democratic Party and the media continued to promote Cindy Sheehan. Then came Barack Obama and…crickets. Sheehan simply dropped from sight. Though she continued her career of protest, with Obama in the White House Mother Sheehan’s adamantine antiwar stand became an embarrassment. So down the memory hole she went, Gold Star mother status notwithstanding.In short, Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan was cynically exploited by the antiwar movement and, having served her purpose, was summarily discarded. I’m not suggesting that she ought to have been silenced. As President Bush noted at the time, “She has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America.” But if Democrats and the Left really believed what they’re saying now about the sacred character of Gold Star status, they’d never have beclowned poor Cindy Sheehan.