Finally! I’ve been keeping a close eye on the peacenik press these last several days as they crow with delight over the Cindy Sheehan vigil and how it may be marking a turning-point in how the press and the country talk about the war. Until today, none of these articles — and I mean none — have taken Sheehan’s tax resistance seriously. Only a couple have even mentioned it in passing.
Bill O’Reilly just howls about Sheehan’s low character in her refusal to pay federal taxes that might put more money the Pentagon’s way.
Listening to O’Reilly and even mainstream pundits, you’d think tax-resistance was a fresh and terrible arrival on the shores of American protest instead of a form of resistance as old as the Republic.
But the notion that tax resistance somehow marginalizes Sheehan as an “extremist” does highlight an important point. The aim of any serious anti-war protest is to force a government to quit fighting, pull the troops out and come home right now.
But Sheehan is castigated in the press, by mainstream liberals as well as mad-dog rightists, for not leaving any wriggle-room on this central point. She says, “Bring the troops home right now.”
Why this silence? I can think of a few reasons: One may be that a lot of Cindy Sheehan’s appeal comes from a very short, simple description of who she is and what she is doing — a grieving mother who isn’t convinced the loss of her son was worth it and who just wants a moment of the president’s time. Anything that adds to and complicates that simple message dilutes it.
Another reason may be that the right-wing slime machine has latched on to anything they can get their hands on in attempts to make Sheehan look like a sinister and insane monster. Anything that puts her out of the mainstream and makes her look less like a grieving mom and more like a weirdo, they amplify (and exaggerate and fabricate if necessary). It’s possible that their desperate focus on Sheehan’s tax resistance has intimidated the peaceniks into believing that this stand really is a liability and something they should downplay or ignore.
But neither of these two reasons is really adequate. There is a limit to how much the peace movement wants to portray Cindy Sheehan as just an ordinary grieving mom — what makes her stand out is that she’s fighting back! And her tax resistance is one important, confrontational, and risky part of this stand. If you start watering down her protest in your description of her, you make her seem more mainstream at the cost of making her seem less newsworthy.
I think maybe the real reason this part of the protest is being ignored by the peacenik press is that it’s hard to celebrate tax resistance without inviting the question: “well then, why are you still paying taxes?” You can avoid camping out at Crawford and confronting Dubya like Cindy does by saying “well, I don’t have a son who was killed in Iraq — I don’t have an angle” but you can’t get out of joining her tax resistance that easily. If you praise her tax resistance stand, if you admit that she’s right not to continue funding the warmakers who took her son’s life, then you have to ask yourself why you’re paying for the next Casey Sheehan’s casket.