By Mike Rhodes
Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan was in Fresno last month to participate in a peace march, promote her new book, Revolution, A Love Story, and announce that she is running for governor of California in 2014. Sheehan attracted international media attention in 2005 when she camped outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch to protest the Iraq war. At one point, more than 1,500 supporters joined her at the encampment. Peace Fresno has brought Sheehan to this community numerous times.
Bev Fitzpatrick, Peace Fresno president, said they decided to bring Sheehan to town because “as Veterans Day approached, the members of Peace Fresno discussed how we could get our antiwar message out during this national holiday where war is commonly celebrated. We decided, Cindy Sheehan is an American hero and as the founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, she would be the perfect choice!”
Sheehan’s Fresno visit came four days after the Nov. 6 general election. She was Roseanne Barr’s running mate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Barr and Sheehan received 708 votes in Fresno County.
Sheehan explained that she left the Democratic Party when it refused to hold George W. Bush accountable and stop the war in Iraq. “The first thing they did was to approve his surge in Iraq.” Sheehan, in response, ran against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2008.
In the talk Sheehan gave following the peace march through central Fresno, she said divisions in this country “are not a political divide, it’s not a religious divide, it’s not a gender divide or a gender preference divide; it is a class divide. Nancy Pelosi, George Bush and Barack Obama serve the 1%. They are able servants of the 1%.”
This realization led Sheehan to write a book about her travels to Venezuela and talks with President Hugo Chavez, who she now calls her best friend for life. “He was just reelected on Oct. 7. He beat the opposition by at least 10 percentage points. That is a mandate!” Sheehan said.
Sheehan continued, “In the United States, the income divide is widening. We have the widest income disparity of any first world nation. In Venezuela, in the years Chavez has been president, it has narrowed by 50%.” She argued that what the pundits here call entitlements should be considered human rights.
“They have enshrined in the Venezuela constitution as human rights healthcare, dental care, education, housing, food [and] the environment. These are listed as human rights in the Venezuelan constitution. Here in the United States, they are not in our constitution and we are told that they are privileges. If you don’t have healthcare, there is something wrong with you.
“In the United States, we have between 1 million and 3 million homeless people,” Sheehan said. “And we all know that 45%–50% of them are veterans. We have 18 million empty housing units. Even if we put every homeless person, even the babies, in their own house, we would still have 15 million. But here in the United States, it is not about human needs or human rights; it is about greed.”
Sheehan said housing should be a human right and cited Cuba as an example. She said that “in Cuba it is against the law to be homeless. Everybody has a roof over their head.”
Sheehan believes Chavez will go down in history as one of the most significant figures of the 21st century. “I wrote this book because I’m inspired by his revolution. I wrote the book to dispel the terrible myths told by our government and its propaganda arm, the media, and I also wrote it to inspire something like that here in the United States.”
As a tax resister, Sheehan questions why General Electric, which profited from her son’s death, received a tax break while “the IRS is harassing a Gold Star mother.”
Sheehan, if she were elected governor, would use the resources in this state to develop clean renewable energy and organic farming. She is a strong supporter of community gardens and believes food should be grown on median islands and vacant lots to help feed the poor.
“California can lead the nation by shutting down our prisons, not opening more but shutting them down,” she says. “How about if we shut down the prisons and we opened the schools and libraries? We could lead the nation in that. We could be the model for a society that cares more about human needs than corporate greed.”
Sheehan said there would be plenty of money to meet human needs if we stopped spending it on building an empire and feeding the war machine. She then announced she will run for governor on a platform that guarantees human rights. “Not just minimum human rights, but human rights with dignity. Because we are human, and they are our rights.” The audience of perhaps 70 enthusiastically applauded as Sheehan left the stage to sign copies of her book, Revolution, A Love Story.
For more information about Peace Fresno and its upcoming activities, visit www.peacefresno.org.
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.