Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Dear Ms. Sheehan" ... a letter from an 80-year-old Charlottesville resident

An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan (and All Others of the Peace-at-All-Costs Camp)

Letter to the editor by Patricia Earle (in anticipation of Ms. Sheehan's anti-war rally in Charlottesville, VA, on July 20, 2007)

Dear Ms. Sheehan:

I read in the local newspaper that you are coming to the city that I have, for more than eighty years, called my hometown.

Some, maybe many, will welcome you enthusiastically and will join you, robustly perhaps, at your anti-war rally.

Others, maybe an even large number, will not. But you should not mistake their absence or their silence as an acceptance of or an acquiescence to your words or your methods of trying to convince others to your way of thinking.

I agree with you, however, on several points. War is terrible, yes – and the current situation in Iraq is indeed bleak and to some it even appears hopeless.

But it is certainly not as bleak or as hopeless as the situation our forbearers faced at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776.

Then, as today, many opposed the war and openly supported our enemy but that did not cause those who sought freedom to abandon the fight. Had they responded to the course of action you are now advocating, it is highly probable you would not have the freedom to speak as you do today.

And yes, I grieve with you on the loss of your son. As I understand it, he was in Iraq voluntarily (as are all American who are fighting there) aware of the dangers but willing to risk his life for a cause he believed in – securing freedom for others and protecting the freedoms we enjoy. Your son died a hero.

As the mother of a son serving in the military, I can well understand your grief but my compassion for you pales in comparison to the compassion I feel for those Virginia Tech parents who lost their sons or daughters in a senseless act of violence that served no purpose whatsoever.

And, more regrettably, even their tragic loss is not unique to Americans today. All over the United States, 18- to 25-year-olds are dying from alcohol and drug abuse, automobile accidents, drive-by shootings and other acts of random violence. The number is staggering and actually exceeds the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

If the loss of life is the primary reason for withdrawing the troops from Iraq, why is no one holding rallies demanding that our government do something to stop the tremendous loss of life on our city streets and college campuses?

I am not sure what motivates you but I firmly believe that the people who are encouraging you are doing so purely for political reasons. And I take great exception to using a military conflict as a tool to gain political power. It is not only divisive at a time when we sorely need unity, but it is also demoralizing to our troops and gives hope to our enemies.

History tells us that in every military conflict there comes a time when the difference between defeat and victory hinges on the resolve of those on the battlefield. I firmly believe we are now at just such a crucial time in Iraq and persistent anti-war rhetoric may well cause us to settle for defeat when we could be on the verge of victory.

I want to bring our troops home as much as you do but I want to bring them home proud of what they have accomplished and with reason to hope that the Iraqi people will now have a better life - not to come home ashamed of their failure and devastated by the chaos that resulted from their departure.


Patricia Earle
Charlottesville, VA

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