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William Rivers Pitt: My Morning Song

My Morning Song

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 21 April 2006

Dizzy found me last night,
Saw some kind of new light,
I woke up in a whirlwind,
Just you watch my head spin.
The spectacle that made you cry,
It's a thrill a minute plane ride,
It's overtime at ring side,
No lie ...

-- The Black Crowes

The bar was mostly empty when I slipped onto my usual stool on Wednesday afternoon. The sun was out and a warm breeze blew through the city. Only a fool would be inside a dark saloon during such a beautiful day, I thought to myself as I took off my sunglasses. John, the bartender, shook his head at me and flashed a smile that carried just a hint of condescension; he had to be here, and was probably wondering why I would waste my day like this.

He did have a point. Spring comes to Boston about as often as honesty comes from the White House, and so far, my city was actually having one. The trees were bursting with blossoms, and the new leaves were so bright that, it seemed, if you touched them, your hands would come away coated in green. I even had my first near-bee experience of the season on the way there; a huge bumblebee had done a fly-by across the bridge of my nose, sounding like a truck passing on the highway.

The reason why I was there walked through the door a few minutes later dragging a huge suitcase and wearing a bright pink IMPEACH BUSH t-shirt. Cindy Sheehan had been at an anti-war event at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst the day before, all the way across the state, after coming from Austin and Crawford before that. She was flying out of Logan Airport that night to catch up with the Raging Grannies in New York on Thursday, on the eve of the huge anti-war protest that will be taking place in the city next weekend.

She had some time to kill before heading to the airport, and I was happy to offer the creature comforts afforded by my local pub. I'd brought her here last summer, while she was in town with the Out-of-Iraq tour that had come out of the Crawford protest, and she had loved the place. It was a little different on Wednesday than the last time she'd been there. The last time, it had been a Saturday night with the Red Sox in town, we had gotten to the bar just as the game had let out, and it was a zoo. This day, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

The bartender, condescending smile now gone, filled my mug with my recent favorite, the Berkshire Steel Rail. Cindy got herself a Stella Artois. Ethan, the head anti-war student organizer at U-Mass who had driven Cindy to the city from Amherst, allowed himself to get talked into a pint of the Wailing Wench, an excellent IPA. My friend Tom, an architecture student, wandered in a few minutes later and joined us.

We tried to avoid talking shop. We really did. It didn't last.

Scott McClellan was out and maybe Brit Hume or Tony Snow was going to replace him. Karl Rove got demoted, or so the story went, and was going to concentrate on keeping the GOP from getting wiped out in the midterms. Or maybe they both were being moved to the side because Patrick Fitzgerald was gearing up to indict them in his Plame investigation. Is it dangerous to have generals attack the civilian government? Or maybe those generals were firing a warning shot across the administration's bow, letting them know that if they were stupid enough to try an attack on Iran, they were going to have big trouble from the brass.

A young man wandered into the bar later in the afternoon with a friend, looking to toss back a pint or two before going to the Sox game that night. He heard Cindy and me comparing our various nightmare stories about commercial air travel; I have some good ones, but on this score, Cindy wins hands-down. He jumped in with a few good stories of his own, including one where his plane landed sideways and slid off the runway. At one point, he asked Cindy what she did that had her on airplanes so often.

"Do you remember the protest last summer down at Bush's ranch?" I asked him. "The one started by the woman who lost her son in Iraq?"

"Yeah, I remember," he said.

"Cindy Sheehan," I said, cocking a thumb at the lady next to me.

His eyes popped out of his head, and he leaped off the stool. He ran over to Cindy and wrapped her in a huge hug, and then gave her the Red Sox cap he'd been wearing. Cindy took out a pink pen and wrote "Peace - Cindy Sheehan" on his white t-shirt. He left a little while later with the t-shirt open for all to see. Later that night, after Cindy had left, he came back from the game and told me that a bunch of people had complimented him on the shirt.

The day passed slowly and sweetly, and the beers went down smoothly. There was a lot of laughter and storytelling, and at one point we all found ourselves giggling at the absurdity of the Bush administration. Did they really have a page on their web site called "Setting the Record Straight?" Who did they think they were kidding? It was all too funny. But amidst all the smiles, I saw Cindy put her head down and mutter to herself.

"Yeah, it would be funny," I heard her whisper, "if my son weren't dead."

The time finally came for Cindy to get going to the airport. Before she left, she grabbed me by the shoulders. I really think this administration is coming apart, she told me. The lies they've told are being exposed on a daily basis. They are scared to death of the midterm elections, and we have to do everything we can to see John Conyers sitting as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. We have such a long way yet to go, but after all this time, the work we've been doing is starting to make a difference. I hailed her a cab, piled her stuff into the trunk, and gave her a big hug goodbye.

I woke up on Thursday morning thinking about everything Cindy Sheehan has been through. She had to bury her son, Casey, and was attacked for the way she chose to mark his grave. She questioned why her son died, what the noble cause was that ended his time on Earth, and was attacked for being a traitor. She has abandoned any semblance of a normal life to travel thousands and thousands of miles in the company of strangers, for no other reason than to demand a reckoning from the people who sent her son to his death. She has been arrested and harassed, she has been the victim of death threats, and she remains undaunted.

I decided that my morning song, my morning devotion, the prayer I will offer at the start of every day, will be simple. I want Cindy Sheehan to get everything she has worked for. I want every question she has asked to be answered. I want every tear she has shed for her son to become a flood that will wash away these last five years of horror. I want her son's death, and her life, to mean something great and good for everyone, for all the people she and her son have stood for. I want the reckoning she seeks, and I believe it will come, if the rest of us display the courage and determination that has marked her passage through these dark days.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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