Stuck in Vermont 11: Cindy Sheehan
When I asked what kept her going, she said simply, "The idea that there's people dying for no reason."
During the weekend of March 2, 3, and 4, Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols (associate editor of the Nation magazine), former Army Sgt. Drew Cameron (Iraq Veterans Against the War), former Marine Cpl. Matt Howard, (Iraq Veterans Against the War), former Army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne (Iraq Veterans Against the War and a psychologist for the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction), and Newfane Selectboard Member Dan DeWalt (organizer of the town meeting resolutions) barnstormed through eleven towns in Vermont to speak in support of citizen actions and participation in Vermont town meeting on March 6.
I spent the entire day of March 3rd following this amazing group of passionate, eloquent, hard-working people - first to the Statehouse to speak out in support of the resolution to bring the troops home, and then to Middlebury College and UVM to rally support for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney on Vermont's town meeting day.
It was snowing hard but our fearless bus driver, Jim Goodnow of Veterans for Peace managed to steer the bus clear of any ditches. Jim was with Cindy when she first started Camp Casey and came to national attention in August of 2005. I asked him if he had any idea of the amazing ride that was to follow and he said that he had an inkling when he saw Cindy up late the night before working on her laptop:
"I could tell by her concentration and the spirit, the aura about her, the presence there, that there was something that would be happening. I didn't know the exact dimension of it." - Jim Goodnow
There is something magical about Cindy that is hard to describe. She is an articulate and powerful speaker and everywhere she goes, people flock to her, shake her hand, hug her and tell her their stories. She inspires, provokes and causes a commotion wherever she goes.
At the Statehouse, Cindy was greeted by a woman clad in American flag clothing and holding a sign that said, "Go Home Sheehan." Cindy took a moment to examine her sign and address her personally. She smiled and said, "I wish I was home right now, in California."
Cindy is always on the move, recently back in the States after visiting Turkey, she has traveled all over the world spreading her message. Demanding an end to the war in Iraq, a safe return home for the soldiers and impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
She was joined on the Vermont leg of her tour of duty by former Iraq soldiers, Drew Cameron, Matt Howard, and Adrienne Kinne who are all with Iraq Veterans Against the War. These three speak with heart-breaking honesty and use their personal experiences to display the disastrous effects of the on going war in Iraq.
During the Senate hearing, Matt addressed supporters of the war and President Bush:
"On many levels I empathize and sympathize with them because they have a lot to lose, I had a lot to lose. When you realize that everything that you put your life on the line for is a myth and was for nothing, that will shatter you. It has shattered me and I'm trying to pick up the pieces of my life...for the last two years of my life upon discharge, when I realized that I was NOT there to help the Iraqi people." - Matt Howard
No matter what your feelings on the war, you cannot help but be touched when you hear these veterans speak. They were there to live through things you have only seen on television and all of them are significantly younger than me. They went to a foreign land on our behalf and now they have come home to speak out and uphold the constitution they swore to defend.
Alongside writer John Nichols, Cindy and the vets brought their messages to eleven VT towns in three days. The hope of organizers Dan DeWalt and Jimmy Marc Leas (owner of the bus!) was that this barnstorming tour for peace would motivate Vermonters to use their unique rights on Town Meeting Day tomorrow, March 6th, to ask that the troops be brought home and the President be impeached. You can find out more at their website, Vermont Impeachment Movement.
It isn't easy traveling from town to town on a rickety old bus in a snowstorm. We were often behind schedule, looking for bathrooms, tired and ravenous. But despite all this, everyone's spirits and morale remained high.
The talk never strayed far from politics, even when discussing the odd parallel world where Anna Nicole's burial and Britney's head shaving garner more press than people dying overseas. These people have a mission and it informs every breath they take.
There was a nice little moment when Ralph Nader called John's cell and a ripple went through the bus as everyone realized, "Ralph? Ralph's on the phone?" John handed the phone to Cindy and she smiled, "Hi Ralph, it's Cindy!"
Earlier, they had discussed the possibility of Cindy running for President. It is easy to imagine, she causes such a stir everywhere she goes. Who would have thought that from one impromptu political action in Texas in August of 2005, Cindy could have paved such an impressive path.
It truly does go to show that one person, no matter who you are, can make a difference in this world. We are lucky to live in a state that allows the freedom to discuss these matters and more at our town meetings.
Happy town meeting day everyone! And many thanks to Cindy, John, Adrienne, Matt, and Drew for touring our state and to Jimmy and Walt for organizing this, to Jim for driving and to Liza for bringing the baked goods!
Beautiful opening music by Swale, "Soft Fireworks," followed by rocking Cave Bees tune, "Mine All Mine."
PS Did you know Cindy is on MySpace? She likes to use it to connect to her younger fans and joked that she has thousands more friends than Michael Moore!