Sunday, March 05, 2006
By MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press Writer -- Sunday, 1 hour, 30 minutes ago
SAN FRANCISCO - Lunching in the Mission District, Cindy Sheehan looks every bit the anonymous suburban mom she was, not long ago.
A man stops at her restaurant table to ask for a snapshot and gives a word of encouragement as a fellow war protester. "I remember people calling me a leftist," he tells her. "You got to ignore that."
In the months since she captured national attention with her August vigil outside 's Texas ranch, Sheehan has gone from grieving mother to widely recognized anti-war campaigner.
"She somehow managed to step out of the shadows and make her voice heard," says Michael Nagler, a University of California, Berkeley, professor and founder of the campus' Peace and Conflict Studies program.
She also has her share of critics, some charging she's been co-opted by the liberal groups that have helped her.
Her recent meeting with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leftist president, raised eyebrows, as have her postings on liberal Web sites like that run by "Fahrenheit 911" filmmaker Michael Moore.
"Cindy Sheehan had one glorious shining moment and she took advantage of it and the peace movement took advantage of her as it created the attention that the movement hadn't had previously," says Stephen Hess, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University.
Sheehan, 48, seems to be just about everywhere on her campaign that started with the death of her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in two years ago this April.
She was arrested, but later apologized to, during Bush's State of the Union address for wearing a T-shirt that referred to the number of troops killed in Iraq then: "2245 Dead. How many more?" Weeks later, she held a San Francisco news conference to announce that she wouldn't challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record). This month she and REM singer Michael Stipe will headline a New York concert, "Bring 'Em Home Now!" and at Easter it's off to Texas for another vigil outside the Bush ranch.
"She's been a kind of a lightning rod for the anti-war effort and it's because of the essential truth of her position: She's an aggrieved mother; that gives her tremendous power," says Nagler.
Some think Sheehan's overstayed her time in the spotlight. "If she had just gone home I think she would have been remembered importantly, but she didn't just go home," says Prof. Hess.
Her mission has come at a cost. She and her husband, Patrick, split up in the aftermath of their son's death. He has made no public comment.
Sheehan insists that no one is exploiting her, saying she has her own agenda. "I really have to stay focused every day on my mission. That's bringing the troops home. This war's illegal and immoral and my son should be alive and nobody else should be dying," she says.
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
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