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Meeting a Legend

November 23, 2006

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Last night, my friends Christina and Alice invited me to a very special engagment. I was fortunate enough to meet Cindy Sheehan who was part of a delegation of peace activists visiting Korea to build bridges with anti-war activists here.

She gave a talk to a packed church in downtown Seoul and shared her thoughts on what brought her to the movement and how she felt it must move forward.

I was immensely impressed not only by the message she articulated, but by the strength and nobility she brought to her presentation. Tired, sad, and distressed as she may be, she showed impeccable grace and patience in her bearing, even in the difficult circumstances of having a speech continuously interrupted by simultaneous interpretation into Korean.

During question and answer time, I took the mic to ask whether she had come to her political views before her son left for Iraq and if so, whether she had discussed with Casey what she felt. She replied that she did in fact protest the war before it took place and that she begged her son to come with her to Canada. As tears welled up in her eyes (and mine as well), she recalled the intense sense of duty that Casey reminded her was imperative to uphold, to his country that he had promised his service, and to his comrades-in-arms whom he had vowed never to abandon. Sadly, only five days after his arrival to Iraq, he was shot and killed.

Particularly powerful were two points she felt must be made. First, Bush and Cheney should go to jail for what they’ve done. Sheehan felt it was unconscionable for those who are responsible for such grave crimes to be able to retire and live out their lives in peace when so many have to live with only heartache and suffering because of their mistakes. Indeed, even those who kill by accident get put in jail for manslaughter, but if you are at the helm of a nation, you can kill without impunity.

Secondly, and this hit me particularly hard and personally, was her statement that she not only forgave those who shot her son, but indeed felt she need to ask them for her forgiveness, because it was only just for them to choose to take arms against an occupying Army, and that any Americans would do the same against any force that came to our soil. “An Iraqi insurgent pulled the trigger, but Bush, Cheney and Congress killed my son and I swear to you I will never stop trying to bring justice for his murder.”

Woah. That’s one tough momma.

Sheehan also noted the intense appreciation she had for her welcome here in Korea, and promised that the amazing impression made by the young activists leading the struggle would travel back with her to the States where she would let everyone know that hope was alive among the Korean activist community. This also made me particularly happy because I too have been so overwhelmed by the spirit I see among activists here, as well as the organizational discipline that is displayed in demo after demo after demo. We Americans have much to learn….

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