A lot of anti-war protesters have come and gone over the last few years, but Cindy Sheehan is still giving hell to the war machine, still shouting into megaphones and being led away in handcuffs. As you may or may not recall, after her son was killed in the Iraq War in 2004, she became a peace activist and staged a highly publicized protest outside of Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in 2005. Whether you agree with her stance or not, you’ve got to give her credit for consistency – she didn’t just stop when Dubya left office, and she criticizes Obama regularly for practically picking up where Bush left off. She was out of the national spotlight for a little while, but now she’s back and just as controversial as ever. So controversial, in fact, she was practically banned from my hometown of Scranton, PA on April 9th.
To make a long story short, some organizers from New York had her fly in from California to speak at their churches, and since Scranton is only about an hour away, they wanted to have her speak in Northeast Pennsylvania as well. She was all set to talk at a venue owned by the Diocese of Scranton when they suddenly canceled at the last minute. Here was their official statement:
The Diocese respects Ms. Sheehan’s right to speak about the issues involving the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The reason she cannot be given a forum inside a Church facility is because she supports positions that are contrary to Church teaching, in particular her support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Ironically, Cindy wasn’t planning on talking about either of those issues in her speech. As we’ve posted about before, the Diocese of Scranton is known for putting their politics ahead of everything else, even a message to end two wars that the Pope himself is against. Bishop Martino, former head of the Diocese, made national headlines in 2008 by forcing every priest in the area to read a letter urging congregations not to vote for Democrats because they’re pro-choice. Martino continued his neo-conservative crusade by pushing his politics (including his hatred of gays) down the throats of every Catholic who would listen…the problem was people stopped listening. As churches and private schools continued to close from lack of attendance, the Church realized that in such a heavily Democratic area, they weren’t doing themselves any favors by pushing more people away and quietly asked Martino to “retire,” which he did, citing “fatigue.” They found a more popular replacement, Bishop Bambera, and while they’ve tried to spin this as a positive change and step forward for the Church, it’s clear judging by this incident that it’s the same old politics in a new funny hat. What if a speaker was pro-capital punishment? Would they have banned him/her too?
I give Cindy credit – she didn’t give up there. She unsuccessfully tried to arrange a talk at several other non-religious, apolitical venues, but was turned down or outright refused because no one wanted to touch the controversy that the Church had drummed up. Finally, she decided to speak on public property (where they really couldn’t stop her) in Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton…and on the steps of the Diocese Chancery Building. While she wasn’t planning to speak about abortion or gay marriage, she now made it a point to do just that before getting into the anti-war stuff, so it just goes to show you that you’re better off listening to opposing views rather than censoring them – you end up doing your opponent more favors by exposing how weak your arguments really are. If the media wasn’t planning on covering her speech before, they certainly were now.
I was among those covering the story, and afterward, I had the opportunity to meet Cindy and talk with her one-on-one. Being a nationally known figure, I’ve heard countless right-wing criticisms of her being this media “attention whore” who cares more about her own fame than the memory of her son; this nasty bitch who is attempting to profit from her son’s death. This just isn’t the case. Never once did she ask for money (she didn’t even bring copies if her books to sign), and her organizers asked only once if anyone could spare a dollar or two after her speech because she flew from one coast to the other on her own dime. She was the kind of person that you didn’t introduce yourself to – she walked up to each person individually and introduced herself. Even though she had done so much traveling in the last 24 hours and was on only three hours of sleep, she hid it well and was witty and engaging, even in between her talks, where she could have easily got into a car and ignored the bystanders. Instead, she hung around with us and talked politics. Even when hecklers showed up to yell at her and try and throw off her momentum, she calmly addressed their views and never once raised her voice at them. Whether you agree with her views or not, to paint her as a raving, greedy madwoman is just so far from the truth that’s it not even funny…it’s just more spin from the media that loves to hate her.
If you’re interested in hearing what she had to say, listen to our latest podcast by clicking the “play” below or download it for free at the link below or on our podcast page. We throw in our own commentary as well, so there’s a good two hours of rousing political content there if you love a good heated political discussion…and we certainly do.
Muckmakers Podcast: Episode 13
Running Time: 125 minutes 21 seconds