A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Cindy Sheehan's new book, Peace Mom, A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism, is the story of how a regular mom became the Peace Mom. Cindy recently spoke with BuzzFlash about her book, her recent hospital visit, her goals for the Camp Casey Peace Institute and her efforts to create a more peaceful planet.
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BuzzFlash: Cindy, thank you for speaking with us.
Cindy Sheehan: Of course.
BuzzFlash: How are you doing? Are you fully recovered from your recent hospital stay?
Cindy Sheehan: Oh, no, not at all. I have to be really careful not to get overtired or overdo it.
BuzzFlash: Can we talk about what happened?
Cindy Sheehan: Okay. It'd be nice to clear it up, so maybe the right wing will stop saying I had an abortion. [laughter]
BuzzFlash: I hadn't heard that one.
Cindy Sheehan: They're very confused. There are these blogs, and they're dedicated to just hating me, you know, and telling lies about me. And one of them is called "Sweetness & Light." They're very confused because they thought that I was a lesbian, and that Tiffany - who's my assistant - was my traveling lover because, they say, "Why does she need an assistant when she never does any work?" So then, when I started having these female problems, they became convinced I had an abortion. But, they can't figure it out, because they thought I was a lesbian. So the logic is just stunning. The leaps of logic are sometimes entertaining to follow, but confusing.
The truth about what happened to me - I have been bleeding very severely. I went to the Seattle Veterans for Peace convention [in August 2006]. I had to go lay down because I was so sick. And I started to feel like I was floating away.
Cindy Sheehan: So a friend called, and I explained to him what my symptoms were. And he said, "Why aren't you in the hospital?" And I said, "I don't know - because I'm here." And so he hung up and called my sister. And my sister called the people that I was with in Seattle. They took me to the emergency room and I was severely anemic from all the bleeding. But, they didn't give me any blood transfusions and they let me go. And I went back to Texas the next day. I mean, in Seattle they gave me some fluids because I was really dehydrated too, and then they let me go. By the time I got to Waco, Texas, I went to get checked by a doctor. I had to go to the emergency room. And I had lost over half my blood volume.
Cindy Sheehan: Yeah, I had lost five pints of blood. And they had to give me two blood transfusions. And they did a minor gynecological procedure, hoping to stem my blood flow. It didn't work. So, about ten days later, I had to have a hysterectomy. They found out that it was something called adenomyosis, when your uterine lining grows into your uterine wall. That's what was causing the heavy bleeding, and it never could have been diagnosed unless I had a hysterectomy. So I almost died in Seattle. I almost bled to death right there. And after my two surgeries, I got a post-operative infection, and I ended up back in the hospital in California for two days.
BuzzFlash: What a journey.
Cindy Sheehan: So it's been really, well -- I'm sure I didn't recover well from the infection because I have been fasting for almost forty days.
BuzzFlash: I was going to ask about that.
Cindy Sheehan: After my first operation, I never slowed down or took any time to rest or reenergize myself. So, I was just really run down.
BuzzFlash: Sometimes the body does that for you.
Cindy Sheehan: Yeah.
BuzzFlash: It tells you it's time to take a break. You're on the mend?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, I'm feeling much stronger. The pain has all but vanished. The infection has cleared up. I just get tired really easy, so I just have to be really careful, especially with this book tour.
BuzzFlash: Yeah, I bet.
Cindy Sheehan: Because I'm going to be really busy for the next three weeks or so.
BuzzFlash: I want to ask you about Bush. On September 26, George Bush was on CNN and he dismissed all the deaths in Iraq as "just a comma."
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
BuzzFlash: We posted your response on BuzzFlash. But, in all of your efforts to meet with Bush, and the work you've done to bring peace and to try and end his illegal wars, have you had any insight into how a single man could show such painfully deep ignorance of, and such callousness toward other human lives?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, I think it's partly because of how he's been raised. I mean, look at his mother. Look at the horribly callous things she's said.
BuzzFlash: Yeah, with Katrina.
Cindy Sheehan: Yes, Katrina. And then when she said why should she bother her beautiful mind with the images of the flag-draped coffins. That's a horribly callous thing. Obviously, George Bush is out of contact with reality. And he was raised in a household where you didn't really care about anybody but yourself. And it seems like everything that the Bushes do is to try to enrich their family. And I just think he was raised to - he doesn't know the meaning of compassion. My friend, Justin Frank, wrote that book, Bush on the Couch. And, you know, he's convinced that George Bush is a sociopath, and me too, because he can -- he just totally doesn't know how to act.
BuzzFlash: Let's talk about your book: Peace Mom, A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism. Before Casey's death in April of 2004, you were a typical, average mother of four from Califoria.
Cindy Sheehan: Uh-huh.
BuzzFlash: And you've had some fairly catastrophic changes in your life in the last two and a half years.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
BuzzFlash: Can you talk about Cindy the mom? Not the activist, but just that part of you that was there in 2004 that -- and just this sort of transformation to who you are now.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, before our Casey was killed, I was the kind of mom that did everything for her kids. I did their laundry. I packed their lunches. I would try to straighten their rooms up a little bit. I mean, go to every game, concert, play. I mean, anything that the kids were involved in, I was involved with them. I was a Girl Scout leader, a Boy Scout leader, a youth group leader. You know, I was president of the band booster club. I'm raising money every week for the band because my two younger children were in band: Janey played the violin and Andy played the tuba. My job for eight years was a youth minister, and my kids were all involved in the youth ministry. And I think my whole life was defined by being a mother, and being a good mother. And, you know, being a good mother because I loved my children, but also trying to be the mother that society wanted me to be too, you know? And now since Casey died, I am not the mother that's there all the time, that does their laundry, that cooks their meals and tucks them in, and kisses their boo-boos, you know? I've found a path and a life's purpose that is still for my kids, and supported by my kids, but also separate. It's a path separate from them that separates us physically but, just like Casey -- nothing could ever separate me emotionally from Casey. And nothing can ever separate our hearts. And even though I'm not always in the same place as my kids geographically, our hearts are always connected. I feel like I'm trying to make the world better for them; make the world better for their children, but also the world's children too, not just my children.
BuzzFlash: That catalyst that was the meeting with Bush - can you describe that for me? And how that changed your perceptions?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, it didn't really change my perceptions of the war. We never agreed with the war. We never agreed; never voted for George Bush. You know, we never supported him. I mean, even though I wasn't a political activist or any kind of activist, I was -- I've always been a liberal Democrat. You know, that's not a dirty word or anything that I'm ashamed of.
Cindy Sheehan: So we never supported him, and it never -- the meeting with him didn't change how I felt. The actual meeting with him didn't change any way that I believed. But at the end of the meeting, I asked George Bush why did Casey die, why did Casey have to die? And he said, he believes that everybody deserves to be free, and freedom and democracy, and blah-blah-blah. And I also asked him, "We're not Republicans. We didn't vote for you in 2000, and we're not going to vote for you in 2004. So why were we invited here?" And he said, "Well, Mom, it's not about politics." And for some strange reason, I believed him.
And so at the Republican National Convention a few months later, after we met him, he actually stood up and said, "You know, I meet with the families of the fallen. I feel their pain. And they tell me, ‘You know, Mr. President, we're praying for you. You know, Mr. President, don't let our loved ones die in vain.'"
And then I just thought: "Wow, you know, this was about politics. So you never go to a funeral. You never say the numbers of killed out loud. You don't acknowledge them in your press conferences. But you can get up and say that you meet with the families." And he just met with us based on politics.
So I just thought: well, you know, if it's about politics for you, then it's about politics for me. And that's when I got involved in the 2004 Presidential elections -- not working for John Kerry, but working against George Bush.
BuzzFlash: When you wrote the book, did it help you understand the journey that you went through?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, you know, I write a lot.
BuzzFlash: Yes. And we're grateful for it.
Cindy Sheehan: I'm a very prolific writer. I can't seem to stop writing. And I do think it has really clarified the writing. And having to research for the writing, and stuff like that, has really clarified my theology of peace -- thinking that we just can't be anti-war. We have to be pro-peace. And when our troops come home from this mistake of an occupation, we have to continue the struggle for peace, because the war machine always wants -- they want perpetual war so they can make money. And we the people finally have to put a stop to that. We can only do it by being peace activists, and not anti-war activists. I always get asked that question: "Do you think your activism or your writing is helping you heal?" I can't really answer it because it's just what I'm doing.
It seems to help me because I feel emotionally stronger every day, especially since Camp Casey last year. I feel that when Casey was first killed, probably for at least the first year or so, my kids were having to comfort me, and worry about me. And now I feel like, from Camp Casey, I'm in a place where I'm strong enough that I can attend to their grief, and help them with their grief.
BuzzFlash: How does this book fit in with your other two books, Not One More Mother's Child and Dear President Bush. Does it fill in a hole?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, I definitely feel that it does kind of fill in some holes about my struggle, because usually when I write, it's not explaining my daily life or my process at all. And this new book is a narrative that explains my process and some things that happened at Camp Casey or happened in my life that haven't been reported on. And just to clarify things -- misconceptions that people have. My other two books were basically collections of essays that I have written, and my blogs from Camp Casey, and interviews I have done, and things like that. So this is just some more personal, in-depth look at my journey since Casey was killed.
BuzzFlash: What do you hope will come from the Camp Casey Peace Institute?
Cindy Sheehan: What we were talking about a little bit earlier -- that finally in the 21st Century, countries stop using killing and violence to solve problems, especially imaginary problems. I hope that we are a confrontation and a thorn in the side of the war profiteers. I hope to be able to educate families about how our children are always used in war to line the pockets of the war profiteers -- rarely if ever used to defend our country. That's why I call the Department of Defense the War Department -- because it's not about defending our country. To educate people about how our families and our communities are losing money and jobs and our children because of the insane and immoral amount of money we spend on the War Department. And just to be a presence of peace; and not just peace on earth, but peace in families, peace in our hearts. I know it's like a really big task that we're taking on, but I am hoping that we're going to have Camp Casey Peace Institutes all over the country. And we're also opening up Camp Casey in Crawford to soldiers at Fort Hood, if they just want to come out for the weekend and just, you know, get away from base.
BuzzFlash: A refuge.
Cindy Sheehan: Yeah, a kind of refuge. A haven for soldiers. I'm hoping to always have a full-time mom there to pamper the soldiers -- you know, to do their laundry, cook for them. I'm hoping to have a full-time vet there to be able to talk to the soldiers and relate with them -- have counseling available, and have resources to help soldiers get out of the military, or get out of going to Iraq if they don't want to. But even if the soldiers support the war and think that the mission is good, I want them to have someplace where they can just come and hang out, because so many of them are so far from home.
And I'm hoping that spreads to other large military institutions. And that's just another way of being in the face of the war machine -- to have programs of peace near a presence of war and violence. Ultimately war and violence come from hatred and fear, and that's something that we have to -- all of us -- have to combat in this country, is hatred and fear.
BuzzFlash: You recently wrote a column titled "Celebrating Irrelevancy," which was a response to a Waco Tribune article claiming the larger peace movement had made you irrelevant. Your response was, "Great. That was my point."
Cindy Sheehan: Uh-huh.
BuzzFlash: Do you feel that the peace movement has taken flight per se -- taken off to a certain degree where you could -- without your body telling you to do so -- take a rest and allow yourself some time to rejuvenate?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, actually they didn't say I was irrelevant to the peace movement. They said I was irrelevant to the anti-war movement. And I make a clear distinction between them.
You know, we had an anti-war movement in Vietnam, and when the war was over, the movement died. And I'm hoping that I will still be relevant to the peace movement, not just now during the regime of George Bush and during the occupation of Iraq, but afterwards, through the Camp Casey Peace Institute, to really advocate for true and lasting peace. And I believe that last year, when I went out to Camp Casey, I was one of the only people publicly saying war is illegal and immoral; publicly saying words like genocide, and calling George Bush a terrorist; and saying, "What's the difference between flying planes into buildings or dropping bombs on buildings from airplanes?" And now I feel like I'm in the middle of a large crowd, and the majority of Americans are on my side.
Irrelevancy can be a good thing. But, I don't think that anybody besides the Waco Tribune finds me irrelevant, since I'm still being attacked by the right, and I'm still being invited all over the world to participate in the peace movement.
BuzzFlash: You're still important.
Cindy Sheehan: Yeah, well, and then I don't want to say so much as important. But, I think we're all relevant and important to the peace movement, and we all have to buy into this notion that killing is wrong and violence is wrong if we want our world to survive.
BuzzFlash: How are Andy, Janey and Carly doing?
Cindy Sheehan: They're doing okay. I talked to the girls already today. The girls and I rented a house together, and we live pretty close to Andy and his Dad. So whenever I'm in California, I'm close to them -- of course, the girls live with me. I was living about an hour away from them, so it's much nicer to be closer to them.
And, you know, they're doing their thing, going to school, working. I dedicated my book to them, because I am just in awe of their strength and their integrity. So, you know, I think we're going to be okay, because we have to be okay.
BuzzFlash: What's the next step?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, I'm on this book tour until October 17th. And then we have two tour buses donated for our use for the Gold Star Families for Peace. And we're going to -- we haven't really announced this yet, because we're still working on the details. But, we can surely talk about it in this interview. We're going to start in San Francisco, and we're going to go across the country and end up in Washington, D.C. on election day. We're going to have rallies along the way. We're starting on October 22nd. It's called the "You're Evicted - Get Out of Our House" Tour.
My premise for the senators who are up for reelection, and the House members who are up for reelection, is that if you're not representing your constituents -- and we know that if 60% to 65% of America disagrees with George Bush and his war of terror -- that transcends all demographics. We're telling them to get out of our house, whether it's the House of Representatives or the Senate: "You're going to be fired and we want you out of our house."
But, George Bush is not up for reelection. If the Democrats don't take the House back, he's going to be in office until 2009. So, our premise on George Bush is that he was never elected in 2000 and 2004, you know, through shenanigans and voter suppression and all kinds of problems that other people have documented very well. He is illegitimately in power.
So, I don't think that we have to talk about an impeachment. We talk about eviction because he shouldn't be in the White House.
And I want to gather people along the way. I want people to meet us in Washington, D.C. on November 7th. And I want to storm the White House and just say: "You're defiling our house. We want you out of there."
I don't think that he's going to see us and pack up his belongings and leave right away. But I believe -- and, you know, whether I believe it or not, it's true -- that governments govern only with the consent of those people that they govern. And I know that the majority of Americans withdraw their consent for George Bush to govern them. But how are they going to know if we don't get out in the streets and show them? I think we need to take to the streets and show the people who are illegitimately in power that we know they're illegitimate, that we don't agree with them.
And we not only have to show George Bush and our country, but we have to show the world, because the world is losing hope with America. And we have to get out, literally by the millions, to give the world back their hope that America will come to its senses.
BuzzFlash: That's great. Thank you so much, Cindy.
Cindy Sheehan: It was great talking to you.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEWYou can get your copy of Peace Mom from the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.