There are moments in which history turns.
Cindy Sheehan's place in history has yet to be written, but a nation is watching it unfold.
The American mythos celebrates this in film and legend. One man stands up. Then two, then four, then ten and soon everyone. From "Norma Rae" to Gary Cooper in "High Noon," with allies or without them, someone stands up for what is right.
But it is not just in film - that's merely where we celebrate it in our collective conscience.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Edward R. Morrow spoke out against McCarthyism.
And it is not just in America - from Gdansk to South Africa to India - at one point people simply see what is happening.
"The Emperor's New Clothes."
Recently I mentioned the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes and got a blank stare from an educated woman who had never heard the story: A knave says he has a special cloth that is visible to all, save for fools. The knave says he will create beautiful clothes for the emperor. The emperor sees nothing, but fearing that he will be thought a fool, the emperor pretends to see the new garments - as does everyone else - until later a small child asks "why is the emperor naked?" Everyone laughs. The laugh is on the emperor and on them as well.
"The Emperor's Iraq Policy" has been like that. Now you see it, now you don't. No weapons of mass destruction. No 9/11 culprits. No progress. The oil hasn't paid for the war. We aren't exactly heroes in the eyes of the people of Iraq.
A mother asks, "where's the Emperor's Iraq Policy?"
"Fool. Can't you see it?" And Bush's supports rush in saying that they see it clearly.
The mistake many leaders make is that they stonewall, but the more walls they build, the more isolated they become.
Cindy Sheehan asks the President to speak with her. The argument goes that he is busy and he has to draw the line. At what point does a line of visitors stop the President's effectiveness - and I cede that point.
Yet, Sheehan has embodied something. It would be more obvious if a tractor-trailer filled with petitions signed by Americans were to pull up with Ms. Sheehan at the wheel. People would see this as a First Amendment issue and a petition for redress in its broadest terms.
The reason many have fallen in behind Cindy Sheehan is because she has dared to stand up. Like the hero of the American mythos, those of us who felt isolated, alone, and betrayed by the leaders of the loyal opposition, now have a rallying point. Cindy Sheehan is a lightning rod of public opinion that is in the air and which the President and the two political parties have insulated themselves, against.
Behind their stone walls and safe beside their pillars of power and deal making, they have forgotten the American people. Carefully selected audiences of the party faithful simply are out of touch with a large group of Americans who feel ignored.
The pathos of this is that Bush is acting out his contempt for people who want answers and not his sophomoric rhetoric and sloganeering. In refusing to see Cindy Sheehan, he demonstrates his refusal to see. He refuses to see what a large segment of the American people are beginning to see - that the "emperor" is naked and to talk with Cindy Sheehan will expose him.
Cindy Sheehan is the conscience of America - a conscience that Bush dares not face.