The Civil Right of Eric Zorn

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The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn, referring today in his online Notebook weblog to grieving mother Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war field protest, actually said:

“When it comes to principle, President Bush is exactly right in not meeting with Sheehan….no one — let alone a President of the United States — is under any obligation to give those who disagree with him a face-to-face confrontation. No matter where you come down on the war in Iraq, you have to acknowledge that it would set a terrible precedent if Bush sent the signal that he’ll meet with those among his critics who stage the biggest, longest protests.”

Hmm, where would we be without our moral rudder there at the Trib?

As I posted in the comments section of Zorn’s blog, the “biggest, longest protests” shouldn’t be a reason for a politician, any politician, to respond? Hmm, how about the Civil Rights movement? Gandhi’s peaceful dissent movement in India? Those were perfect examples of the “biggest, longest” protests being heard. Sheehan is not alone in her opinion about the war. She is not even alone out there in that field. And for every person there with her in the flesh, many more of us are back home pulling for her in spirit.

The right to protest and the expectation of public accountability on the part of our elected officials are fundamental tenets of this country. And in case you haven’t been paying attention for the past five years (and all the years in Texas before that), Mr. Bush does, indeed, respond to protest. Not biggest and longest, but richest. The lengths to which this government has coddled rich and powerful corportations who are easily and regularly able to buy the President’s ear is scandalous.

That right to be heard used to belong to poor old regular citizens like Ms. Sheehan. If there is any worth in Zorn’s blog, it is merely and unfortunately to point out to us that this isn’t the case, anymore.

Shame on you, Eric.

***

Two hours after the above post, Eric Zorn replied to my comment on his blog:

“ZORN REPLY–I’m certainly not arguing that leaders should not pay attention to public opinion or that protest movements aren’t often right and righteous. A movement may indeed coalesce around or be greatly strengthened by Cindy Sheehan. More power to her. But I don’t think anyone can argue that Sheehan has not been heard, that the president is unaware of what she wants to say and would say to him. If you try not to let the question of whether you agree with Cindy Sheehan’s argument about the war influence your analysis of this situation, you’re likely to see it differently. What if she were a woman remorseful about having had an abortion and the president was Bill Clinton?”

I could have an apples-and-oranges field day with the closing sentence of that reply, but I’ll end on the hopeful note that Eric at least gets the point that Sheehan has a right to her protest, both its message and its method. More power to her, indeed.

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