FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Power of the Ordinary

by RAMZY BAROUD

Cindy Sheehan, a grieving mother of 24-year-old son Casey, killed only days after joining his army unit in Iraq, is an ordinary woman with extraordinary bearings.

Two months after the untimely death of her son, in June 2004, she met President Bush, hoping to find comfort and answers to many daunting questions. After a disappointing meeting, she insisted on meeting him again to pose her simple, yet poignant and utterly consequential question: “Why did my son die?

Expectedly, this question has been asked by thousands of grieving American families and in fact millions of Americans, many of whom have finally realized the dishonesty and absurdity of Bush’s aimless war. 54 per cent of the American public, according to an August 7, 2005 nationwide CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll feel that the US administration has ‘made a mistake’ in sending troops to Iraq.

But unlike the disapproving, yet largely hushed, or perhaps overlooked millions, the 48-year-old mother, Sheehan, hauled anguish beyond words and camped near Bush’s Texas ranch. Initially, the White House completely ignored her pleas, simply devising alternative routes so that Bush wouldn’t run into ‘Camp Casey.’ When Sheehan finally forced her story on to the media, Bush took notice, dispatching some of his officials to pacify the devastated mother with yet more empty rhetoric. She refused to leave. Her insistence drew nationwide attention, quickly crossing the line dividing the alternative media from that of the mainstream. Right-wing apologists swiftly inundated the media, desperately trying to control a narrative, so instinctively woven by an ordinary woman so incessant on challenging the meaning, or lack thereof, in her son’s death.

While the clichéd understanding of the media’s role in the US is that it is an open, unhindered and evenly representative forum, the sad, albeit unsurprising truth is that the US mainstream media has always been a one-sided, drum-beating, chest-pounding, war-mongering medium where self-serving politicians and businessmen often come together in sinful matrimony. It has, however, so unfairly, tainted the image of the American people, as irrational minds, blindly ‘marching in support’ behind the president, the troops, American Ideals, and so forth, as if the appalling values that molded the thinking of Bush’s ideologues has also influenced the aspirations of ordinary Americans everywhere.

Nonetheless, the sudden, yet invigorating appearance of Sheehan created a tidal wave that is, not only challenging the utterly deceptive rhetoric of the media’s pro-military intervention pundits, but in fact re-launched the antiwar movement, whose absence left the case for war unchallenged.

But still; while some champions of the anti-war movement are incapable of articulating a decisive and uncompromising agenda on ending the war in Iraq, Sheehan, this ordinary woman with a small tent, a few sandwiches and a cell phone has proven more unshakable than anti-war groups who claim tens of thousands of members. “We’re over there and we need to come home,” she told reporters on August 16. She contested the claim that ‘leaving Iraq in chaos’ is a non-option. “We need to let the Iraqi people handle their own business,” she said, arguing, according to Salon.com that “the US presence is the source of all violence there.” Bush is the one responsible for her son’s death, she said, as for “The person who killed my son, I have no animosity for that person at all.”

What makes Sheehan’s story utterly powerful is that it comes from a member of society that has been merely qualified as ‘ordinary’, meaning a person of no bearing on the outcome of things, be it political or otherwise. But she is a woman, a mother and that too is a powerful message of revolutionary proportions. Women have erroneously been regarded as minor players in shaping what social scientists coined the ‘public sphere.’

The modern history of the US, moreover, the West in general, was devised by men, some argued, thus the narrative delineating that history finds it possible to exclude women. Women were only the subject of discussion within a particular role, within politics, religion or media, a supportive role that more or less was designated and narrated by men. Once again, ordinary people, and women in particular, found themselves irrelevant to the whole debate. They simply didn’t matter.

Cindy Sheehan’s strong and uncompromising stand is changing that. Her solitary presence is giving vigor, reuniting and inspiring the anti-war movement (as it has been argued by many before me); but what I find even more important is that she has ascribed a different role to a cast of people that has historically been so marginalized, and unfairly so: ordinary women within ordinary surroundings.

In the strict definition of the term however, I find nothing ‘ordinary’ about Cindy Sheehan. She is not a member of the elite, nor does she aspire to be. She wants to preserve her ordinariness, but has ” willingly or not ” chosen to redefine that seemingly innocuous designation. But Sheehan is not the only ordinary American standing against the war.

All across America and across the world, millions of people defied the consensus to which such people are expected to subscribe. But in this age of typecast democracy, where only elitism ” money, politics and thus power ” determine the course, the cries of those millions have gone unanswered. And while the dominant few, along with their willing or brainwashed constituency dictate the cause and the cost of war, only the unimportant, and ordinary people like Cindy Sheehan’s son pay the ultimate price and fall victim. The mother’s challenge to President Bush to send his daughters to fight his ominous war in Iraq was not as extraneous as it may have seemed.

Sheehan will eventually fold her tent and go home despite the unequalled value of every hour she spends in her worthy protest. The drums of war, through the mainstream media and their ever-detached analysts, will go on for a while longer. But the hope is that the power of the ordinary which has been revived in the efforts of Cindy Sheehan will always inspire others like her, for it is the absence of that power that keeps the fate of humanity in the hands of a few, who seem utterly apathetic regarding the fate of ordinary people, of Cindy Sheehan, and of her irreplaceable loss.

RAMZY BAROUD, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology (Malaysia). He is the author of the forthcoming book, Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising (Pluto Press, London.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail