George Bush is on vacation in Crawford, Texas, taking the same August-long break that he did in the summer before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The appeal of Crawford appears to be that it provides the President with an opportunity to put aside all the troubles of the world and to focus on fixing fences and clearing brush. After all, it was during his previous vacation that Bush ignored an August 6, 2001, briefing document titled: "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S."
Bush's inner circle, a collection of neoconservative ideologues with an agenda of their own rather than an interest in what is best for the United States, made no effort in 2001 to steer the President's attention toward pressing matters of national security. And they remain determined to keep the woefully disengaged chief executive focused on busy work around the ranch rather than life-and-death questions of how this country should position itself in a complex and dangerous world.
But this summer, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq named Cindy Sheehan is making it harder for Bush to ignore the truth that his decisions have led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 1,800 Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, while making both the United States and Iraq more vulnerable to violence.
There are many reasons why Cindy Sheehan is attracting a flood of media attention. The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, Sheehan is camping out near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas and says she won't leave until Bush agrees to meet with her to discuss the war. With a compelling personal narrative, an articulate voice and an obvious mainstream pedigree, Sheehan is tapping into a growing popular feeling that the Bush Administration is out of touch with the realities of the Iraq war.
This past Saturday, Bush's national security adviser and the White House deputy chief of staff were dispatched to meet with Sheehan beside a road a few miles from Bush's ranch, but she is still insisting on a meeting with the president before she will end her vigil. So far, the White House has adamantly refused but this refusal is starting to exact major public relations costs. With what Maureen Dowd called the "absolute" moral authority of a mother who has lost her son to war, Sheehan's protest is giving voice to a question more and more Americans are--finally--asking: Why did we invade Iraq?
Sen. George Allen (Republican, Va.) has publicly encouraged the President to meet with Sheehan and answer her questions. Click here and urge your elected reps to make the same public call. There's also a new website--MeetWithCindy.Org--which makes it easy to help support Sheehan's efforts, whether you want to make plans to go to Crawford or whether you want to make it possible for others to do the same. The Crawford Peace House is also mobilizing support for Sheehan.
Last month, Rabbi Michael Lerner--the founding editor of Tikkun magazine--convened a Conference on Spiritual Activism in Berkeley. It was there that he launched a new organization called the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP).
Lerner describes it as "the most significant inter-faith effort" to bring together "religious, secular and spiritual-but-not-religious progressives." Thirteen hundred people--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and "spiritual but not religious people"--turned out for the conference to network and hear talks from Dave Robinson, the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA; Michael Nagler, founder of Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine and Mahatma Gandhi's grandson.
The Network, Lerner explained in an interview last week, is seeking to transform our nation's institutions and culture by addressing the American people's "spiritual crisis." This crisis, he argues, stems from "an excess of selfishness and materialism" associated with American capitalism, and the fledgling organization wants to change society's bottom line by de-emphasizing "money and power" and reinforcing values like "love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace."