Dear Cindy:

Please don’t go. We’re so sad you’re leaving. Really. We counted on you as a brave and brazen peace mom to keep on keeping on against this awful war that killed your beloved son Casey and so many others. If anyone could have stopped this war single-handedly, you might have, if you had stuck it out. Oh, we know you’ve already given and given and given. You’ve made so many sacrifices while we stood safely at the margins, cheering you on. For us, you gave up your privacy, your personal life, maybe even your own marriage.

What initially impelled you to step forward for this cause must have been your own personal pain from the tragic death of your soldier son Casey in a war so ill conceived it was fueled by lie after government lie. But, before your grief about Casey’s death galvanized you into action, you had not been a life-long activist, nor an ideologue, nor a committed anti-war protester. You were not familiar with the Cult of Personality’s double-edged sword, nor accustomed to the harsh, unrelenting glare of the media, nor the inevitability of stinging, petty criticism from all sides, even your own.

You’re a mom, and your son had died, and so you became, for a time, America’s wartime conscience, holding this nation up to a standard of decency and compassion it seems otherwise unable to achieve through our corrupted elected leadership.

Many of those protesting this war, and other wars, are in it for the long haul, committed on principle – hoping and, yes, assuming you were, too. Certainly we know people burn out trying to create massive social and political change. It’s emotionally depleting. Some of our best friends are activists, lifelong radicals who learn how to recharge themselves so they can continue over the duration, even with a struggle as complex and difficult as this one.

Admittedly it must have come as a huge shock to you when you realized Dumb-O-Craps can be as reprehensible as Repug-Nicans – and as mean, insular and small-minded to those who dare disagree and diverge. That’s why America needs a viable, functioning third party like the Greens, or at least a flotilla of courageous legislators like Dennis Kucinich, unafraid to stand alone until the rest of the world catches up, a patriotic pacifist to the core.

We also realize how hurtful it must be for you to experience vituperation from your own side as well as your opponents. Had you been better prepared, you might have known to expect that. Hey, since it comes with the territory, seasoned activists develop thicker skins to ignore that kind of backbiting, envy and infighting.

While it’s really sad you – perhaps THE FACE of United States protests against the Iraq war – have so suddenly quit the peace movement to return to your fractured family in California, maybe it’s not really such a surprise.

Yes, from here it looks like what originally drove you into protest was your own sense of personal pain and futility and outrage at Casey’s loss. Then, after all your work, you discover he’s still dead. That must’ve been quite a shock.

And yet, your recent overnight departure from public life brings with it a sense of betrayal. Sure, you probably quit because you felt betrayed by your critics, but those of us who believed in you feel a bit betrayed by your abrupt departure. Maybe if you had been an old “movement” hand, you’d be accustomed to the “criticism/self-criticism” ritual so you wouldn’t feel so flayed.

Cindy, you became a convenient hood ornament for liberal guilt. Yes, they used you, and so did we. You picketed for us, so we could assure ourselves we were good people like you. While you were protesting in Washington, scads of us were back home instead, smug in the knowledge you were doing it for us.

Please accept the sincere thanks of a grateful nation. Surely your son did not die in vain. He fought, and gave his life, for something he believed in; that, indeed, is a rare and blessed thing. Don’t doubt yourself, Cindy. We applaud you. We’ll never forget how you valiantly stood up to our hopelessly wrongheaded putative president. Soon, Camp Casey will become a trophy for whatever side successfully claims it. Please rest up at home and let your wounds heal. Maybe you’ll change your mind and come back, to finish the job you started. Be well. We miss you already.

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