The founder of Gold Star Families for Peace most recently made news by accusing the Democratic Party of exploiting the grief of Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
Though the international brouhaha over Sheehan’s 2005 siege has long since become yesteryear’s news, her continuing advocacy work has not escaped the notice of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, which made her this year’s Eugene V. Debs awardee. The awards dinner will be held Sept. 24 at the Sycamore Banquet Center, 218 N. 6th St., Terre Haute.
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: History-makers, the likes of John L. Lewis and Dorothy Day and Kurt Vonnegut, have won the Debs award. What’s your reaction?
: I’ve been nominated for the Nobel Prize. I’ve received many awards. But this means a lot. I admire Eugene Debs so much. There are parallels between my activism and his. He was so principled, so persistent. The price he paid for that speech at Canton, Ohio (imprisonment for urging young men to refuse the World War I draft), few people can understand. Such courage.
: You mention parallels. Were you like him in seeking reform within the system before giving up on both major parties?
: I probably was a liberal before my son was killed. I grew up in the Vietnam era. I was not on board with any of the U.S. wars. But I still didn’t think the system was as broken as it really is. Some people will say it’s not broken; it’s fixed — for the One Percent. I worked for the Democrats after Casey’s death. They promised me that if they got a majority in the House of Representatives, they would help me end the war. They didn’t do that.
: In addition to making speeches, organizing demonstrations, maintaining a blog and podcast, etc., you’ve run for office under the Peace and Freedom Party banner — again following in Debs’ third-party footsteps. You didn’t win the vice-presidency, the governor’s office or a Congressional seat. Was it worth it?
: I got more votes against (former House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi than any of her opponents ever got, 17 percent. The Republican didn’t beat me. But the obstacles facing a third party are almost insurmountable. Whichever of the war parties is in the White House, pressure has to come from below. We need a revolution.
: You’ve taken a lot of flak from the right for Camp Crawford and subsequent militancy, including a spate of “exposes” that proved to be fabricated. “Attention whore” was one of the terms of endearment. Does that backlash weigh on you?
There’s always been more support than negativity. I have no scars from it. I have survived 12 years with a son being killed. If a parent can bury a child and move on, nothing else can scar you.
Cindy Sheehan at 59 remains a committed antiwar activist and socialist 11 years after her celebrated camp-in outside then-President George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch in protest of her son’s combat death in Iraq.