It’s not just Cindy Sheehan.
Something has happened in the country in the last few weeks.
Suddenly the deaths of Americans in Iraq are being recognized and talked about.
You could tell here in Philadelphia when the local TV news programs featured lengthy stories on the funeral plans of the half dozen National Guard troops who were killed recently.
You could tell too by a new attitude among the local reporters themselves.
All four of the broadcast network affiliates, including the local Fox station, sent reporters out to cover the August 17 candlelight vigil in support of Sheehan. All chose to send their crews to a church in Philadelphia’s integrated Germantown section, where a Methodist church had announced a vigil as part of the MoveOn/True Majority-organized nationwide event.
Hosting that gathering was Celeste Zappala, who lost a foster son in Iraq in April, 2004 (the same month Sheehan’s son Casey was killed), and who is a co-founder with Sheehan of Gold Star Mothers.
When the reporters from the network affiliates interviewed her, and heard her speak movingly about the losses being suffered because of a war based upon lies for which so many reasons have been given and then debunked or rejected, there were tears in some of their eyes.
There were no hard-edged, cynical questions about motives or politics.
Something has happened.
The stories that ran late that evening, juxtaposed appropriately next to reports on the funerals and on the latest devastating bombing of a bus depot and a hospital in Baghdad that killed 43, were sober and respectful. No references to “’60s graybeards.” No effort to scare up some small bunch of counterdemonstrators for “balance.”
The national media may still be more timid about stories critical of the administration. The N.Y. Times buried its story on the nationwide vigil on an inside page, as did the Philadelphia Inquirer locally, leaving it to USA Today to give the story the page one prominence it deserved based upon simple news value.
That was why the local coverage was so important all around the country. Closer to the ground, away from the self-important editors of the national media, who seem to have trouble realizing they aren’t part of the government, editors and reporters are picking up the groundswell of opposition to the war that is building with every new coffin unloaded at Ft. Dix.
You could see it in the street-hardened white Philly cop who, as he drove slowly down the cobblestoned Germantown Avenue pathway between the two rows of hundreds of candle-holding vigil-goers, made a peace sign with his fingers.
Something has happened.
N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich may have jumped the gun and oversimplified when he wrote last week that someone needs to tell the president the war is over. It’s certainly far from over. But its days are clearly numbered.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org