Sunday, August 21, 2005

I love radio, and I listen to lots of it. Radio has been my window on the world ever since I was a kid, sneaking into the den at night to turn on my father's huge AM/FM console radio after everyone was asleep. I'd listen to Havana and Little Rock and other foreign places; I remember one thrilling night when the "skip" was good and I heard Chicago and New York City.

When I am homesick for the Bay Area, I can turn to 740 to listen to KCBS after dark. When I was in Israel and homesick for the United States, I discovered that I could listen to NPR via the internet, and was soothed by Bob Edward's voice. On my drives up the Central Valley, I tune from one tiny religious station to another; I started when "Passion of the Christ" came out and I wanted to know if it was bearing any anti-Semitic fruit I should (as a good student rabbi) know about for my congregation's sake. It wasn't; mostly the radio preachers seemed bothered by the same assortment of historical glitches that were bothering me.

Sooo, a few days ago, as I drove down Wilshire Blvd., I turned to an LA radio station to which I'd rather not give any advertising. Rush Limbaugh was blowing hard, as usual, and I listened to hear what he was up to these days. I don't like Rush, but I like to know what his listeners are hearing. Even for Rush, though, this was a new low.

Rush was trashing Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who had taken her grief and her questions to President Bush's vacation spot. First he implied she's a fake (her protests are "staged") and then he compared her protest to "forged documents," which sounds to me perilously close to calling her a liar.

Casey Sheehan gave his life keeping the oath he took when he swore to protect the Constitution. Cindy Sheehan lost her child. She has every right to grieve, every right to be angry, and our vacationing President should have the common decency to take 10 minutes to say, "Ma'am, I'm so sorry," in a tone of voice that suggests actual sorrow.

Personally, I think she's asking some excellent questions, too. Why *did* we go there? Tha'ts less and less clear, as the administration has virtually admitted with its changing account of what it is: "War on Terror?" "Operation Iraqi Freedom", "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism?"and so on. Best of all, exactly what is the connection between the bloodbath in Iraq and the U.S. Constitution that Casey swore to defend?

And why, if it is so important that we be in Iraq, are we not sending everyone's children, instead of volunteer reservists who have been turned into virtual slaves, stuck in Iraq for long past the time for which they committed? Why are there no young Bushes in the service, if it's so important we be in Iraq?

Why are we simultaneously conducting a war, cutting taxes on the wealthy, and cutting veterans' benefits?

Why, why, why, Mr. Vacationing President?

I'm going to avoid that dial on the radio for a while. I can listen to a lot of stuff and be calmly interested, but I can't listen to that man trash a grieving mother. She's said some things I don't agree with, either, but were I to meet Cindy Sheehan, I would have only one thing to say to her:

Ma'am, I am so sorry.

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