Sometimes you get yourself in a mood that just won't let you go [folksy style alert!], and my mood about Cindy Sheehan and what has flowed from her decision to protest the death of her son [a bit more than that, I’d say] by camping out at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, is becoming one of those things. [So far, it's all about Madigan, whose moods we are expected to care very much about; you know, good old Charles. Shucks.]
A little over two years ago, I went [more Madigan here: we care] to Bedford, Va., [later i-d’d as a “little town . . . in the shadow of” a mountain range] to talk to some women and men who had lost friends on D-Day. Bedford had 35 young men [specify young when aiming for tear ducts] in the first wave of soldiers to push onto the beach, all National Guardsmen, and 19 of them were killed in very short order. More died later.
What I really [really?] wanted to know was whether that pain of loss in wartime ever really [really now!] goes away.
[Even] before the Iraq war death notices started coming in, I wanted to remind people that each loss is an individual loss, that it breaks hearts forever, one at a time. [Thanks, Charles.]
It is so much more than a number. [Oh boy, how many say it's only a number!]
The little town [what little town? oh, the one you visited] sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place where your [mine?] eye falls kindly [not rudely?] on everything from [its] 19th Century architecture to the forests along the [mountain] range.
It seemed the kind of place just [just so] invented for storytelling.
Many people in the South [Virginia] have a gift for measured speaking that makes it easy to take notes or listen for nuance, for suggestion, for that taste of cadence. [Can't you just taste it?]
It makes you [me?] think, "Well, this lovely woman [which one is that, Charles?] could just as well be singing," or, "You could dance to the way that man talks." [Oh?]
I chased around town looking for the right women. [Chased?]
Elizabeth worked at the drugstore in the telegraph booth on D-Day, [How about "I found Elizabeth, who worked" etc.?] and she got [”who got” should do it] the first word of Bedford's loss some time later when she turned her machine on in the morning and the messages from the Department of War to the families of dead soldiers started printing out.
Imagine that, sitting there in your little booth and seeing the names of fellows that you maybe had dated, maybe had kissed under a streetlight one hot summer night, maybe danced with, or kissed goodbye when the troop train pulled out of Bedford so long ago.
"The secretary of war regrets ..."
It's a lot of heartbreak for a little town. [And a lot of one-sentence paragraphs, short ones at that, for 800 words.]
It must have been awful to be there in the weeks after D-Day and find out about those deaths. [We get it.] Even all these years later, some of the women still grew teary when they talked about their dead boyfriends, how this one had a chest wound and had drowned on the beach when the tide came in and washed his stretcher away.
"You just don't get over that," one of them told me.
The elderly woman who headed the draft board at the time recalled the farmer who came bursting into the draft office with his loaded shotgun, ready to kill everyone. Two of his sons had been sent off to war, and one wasn't coming back. He was talked out of it.
How many times did those kinds of things play out? How noble did it all seem a decade or so later, when the flags stopped waving and what you were left with was an overwhelming loneliness for someone you will never see again on this Earth? [Not noble? Ignoble? M. suggests but never quite says something here? Does he mean D-day was a waste? He’d rather not say, apparently.]
That is why I am taking this opportunity to quietly curse Cindy Sheehan's critics in word and thought far too inappropriate to be published in a newspaper. [This is Charles Angry and Inarticulate. He can’t say what he’s thinking. We can only guess and cringe, which is a good deal for him, since he’s lost for words. But can’t he just say “Grrrrrr”?]
Sheehan made the choice to protest by plunking herself down [he means, made the choice and then plunked herself, etc.] in Crawford and demanding to see Bush so she could ask him exactly why her son, Casey, 24, was killed in an ambush in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004. [Does Charles really think that's all she wanted? She’d like it seen that way, yes.]
The reporters descended on her the way buzzards float down to pick at roadkill. [Oh boy.] Supporters eager to voice their concerns about the war, toss some rhetoric [is that what it is?] at Bush and maybe get some time on TV showed up too.
Sheehan has now become one of those unfortunate media creatures, which diminishes her message and her impact. [Charles, there’s not a p.r. practitioner in the country that would agree with you: becoming a media creature is where’s it’s at, for gosh sakes!]
She has complicated matters with her own comments about the president as terrorist and her thoughts about Zionist conspiracies. [To say the least.]
Those remarks have opened the door to White House apologists of many stripes, who stepped in to criticize her quite aggressively, just as they seem to mysteriously step in to criticize anyone with unkind words or difficult questions for the president. Fine, that's how they play the game. [Hey, we got buzzard reporters, people who toss rhetoric at Bush, and White House apologists playing a mysterious game, and it's o.k. with Madigan?]
Anyhow, Sheehan became a certified, confusing, big-time media event. [Somehow it happened, unbeknownst to that poor woman.]
Let me say this, Cindy Sheehan, so you can use it later. [Uh-oh, free advice.]
I am sorry you lost your son. There will be this empty space [what empty space would that be?] around you for the rest of your life.
I know a place you can go down in the Blue Ridge where all the sweet women will weep with you and share their memories later, perhaps when you need them the most. [But will they demand Bush change policy?]
All in all, this is the sort of thing that gives bathos a bad name.