Thursday, August 18, 2005

Casey Sheehan's Decision

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bullshit to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: "This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}"

--Cindy Sheehan, Rally for Lynne Stewart, SFSU, 04/27/05

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Ms. Sheehan and her family on the loss of their son, brother, grandson, nephew. Mothers often have a special relationship with their firstborn, simply because everything is a first, both the good things and the bad. And the most difficult thing we have to learn, as mothers, is when to let go.

We want to protect our children. And, especially with our firstborns, we think we can. Keeping our kids safe is our duty, our moral obligation, and that includes their mental well-being along with the physical. But we can’t. Sooner or later every child skins a knee or is called a name. We kiss the boo-boos and try to make them better—a duty that becomes more and more difficult as our children grow up—until, at some point, we have to let them go. They are adults and they have to live with the choices they’ve made. They have to live their life, not the one we would have them live.

Letting go is hard, I’ve learned, as DS#1 and DD#2 make choices that I think they will later regret. But I also know—from my own growing up—that it’s better to let them make bad choices now and learn from them, rather than when they are older and have families of their own. But, beyond discussing the possible ramifications of their decisions from my perspective and my experiences, as my children reach their late-teens and beyond, I can do very little.

In the quote above, Ms. Sheehan talks about taking her son to Canada. Would he have gone? What about her second son? Or her daughters? Why hasn’t she taken them to Canada, especially now that she knows that her family is living in a “morally repugnant” system?

The truth is, whether Ms. Sheehan wants to admit it or not, her children are adults. Her oldest son chose to join the Army, for reasons that made sense to him. He chose to go to Iraq. He knew his decisions could cost him his life: when a recruit joins the Army, they have to write their Will—something I have yet to do and I’m 30 years older than most of these soldiers. They are encouraged to discuss the types of funeral services they want with their next of kin. Death is a very real possibility and, from what I have been told by those who were either in the Armed Forces or had someone close to them join, the Forces do their best to impress this on their recruits.

Perhaps her grief is causing Ms. Sheehan to second-guess herself: what could she have done differently to keep her son out of the Army? Because if he wasn’t in the Army, he would still be alive. He might not be the Casey she remembers, though, because our children, like ourselves, are the sum of the choices they've made—or not made—during their lifetime. If she had been successful in taking Casey to Canada, he would have been a very different person than the Casey she remembers. (And it could be that moving would not have made any difference: he might have joined up anyway. After all, it’s not like Canada is on another planet.)

Casey Sheehan made a decision, and made it as an adult. That decision put him in harm’s way and ended his life. Ms. Sheehan could not have altered his decision without altering who he was and I pray that some day she will accept that. For she will have no peace within herself until she does.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)