During my many years as a writer, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people. But talking with Cindy Sheehan this morning was unlike any conversation I’ve ever had. Even though we were talking via cell phone -- and had a crummy, staticky connection at that -- her authenticity and passion reached through the receiver and both touched my heart and punched me in the gut.
She spoke with a combination of utter determination, unassailable integrity, fearlessness, and the peace of someone who knows that their cause is just. Her commitment was palpable -- and infectious. It reminded me an old quote about the great Greek orators: “When Pericles spoke, the people said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march!’”
That’s the feeling I got from this former Catholic youth minister. She of the floppy hat and the six foot frame (though she’s standing even taller than that these days). A woman driven by faith and conviction who used to think that one person couldn’t make a difference and is learning otherwise. Her humanity stands in stark contrast to the inhumanity of those who refuse to admit their mistakes and continue to send our young men and women to die in Iraq.
She may not be the kind of media figure the cable news channels would order up from newsmaker central, a la Natalee Holloway. But she is the kind of unexpected leader I’ve been writing about for years. One who springs not from the corridors of power, but from among the people. One who may come from Vacaville, California, but who makes nonsense of red state/blue state distinctions.
The time has passed when we can stand around waiting for a knight on a white horse to ride to our rescue. We’ve got to look to ourselves -- to the leader in the mirror. Our elected officials have woefully failed to provide the leadership needed on this most vital issue of our time. And stepping into that void is Cindy Sheehan. Inspiring us. Touching our conscience. Calling forth our courage and our commitment. Focusing our outrage. And acting as a catalyst for the tens of millions of Americans who know that the war in Iraq is a disgrace.
Who knows, her example might even be just the thing to give Hillary and Harry and the rest of the Democratic leaders the spine transplant they so desperately need. But don’t hold your breath. Instead, use it to show your support for Cindy Sheehan -- and for our troops.