A lot has been made recently about "Victim's Rights" - a Right Wing buzzword that replaced "Tough on Crime", which replaced the previous phrase, "Tough on Blacks". (I'm just kidding. No politician has said that openly in years) Really what Victim's Rights means is "presumption of guilt". Apparently people trust the police so much that they feel like it's coddling criminals when the accused are given state-appointed attorneys. (Maybe it's really more of a case of, If you're poor, you're as good as a criminal mentality) They feel that preventing police from making illegal searches and seizures emboldens criminals and that shooting people in the subway for no reason other than some diaphanous "War on Terror" prevents people from being blown up. Generally we give the victims (of criminals, not of the state) special status and give their opinions special weight. Ashley Smith, the woman who fed Brian Nichols pancakes while she waited for police to collect him, has written a book and has become a motivational speaker. She might have a decent claim to this, though, since she purportedly talked Brian into surrendering peacefully.
Lately, I've noticed that the families of victims are being given special rights and privileges. The families of the people killed in the September 11th attacks, for example, were on the committee to decide how to rebuild the World Trade Center site. This is land owned by the Port Authority of New York and leased by a private developer. Does the fact that a family member died there give them some sort of partial ownership? Does it make them smarter or more business savvy that they should be heard in business meetings to decide what to do with millions of dollars of prime Manhattan real estate? Surely they have the right to protest and make a fuss, but only a suck-up politician would give them actual power.
I haven't talked about Cindy Sheehan, mostly because I felt there was no issue there. A woman stood on a public right of way and protested. It's not news, it's not controversial, it's not anything. It has been pretty shameful how the Right-Wing media has been trashing her, saying she has no right to speak for her dead son (funny coming from people who a few months ago said Terri Schiavo's parents had every right to speak for their dead daughter), and trying to discredit her from every angle. Really, why do they care? It's every American's right to protest. Why vilify her? Are red staters so sheltered that they aren't aware there are a lot of Americans opposed to both the Iraq war and Bush? Do they need to be protected from this affront to their fantasy world?
From everything I've read, Cindy Sheehan has been accurately representing her son's attitudes. But even if she was not, she is entitled to her own views and there's no reason for her to be vilified for her actions. For her actions that the first amendment was specifically written to protect.
That being said, Sheehan's views are a bit kooky. I support what she's doing, but as much as I dislike the Iraq war, I'm not packing a bag to stand by her in Crawford, Texas. She blames a Jewish conspiracy for sending her son to Iraq, claiming that her son signed up to defend the US, not Israel. Not I know that Iraq wasn't BFF with Israel, but the vast majority of Jews in the US still vote Democrat and thus it stands to reason that the majority of Jews also don't support the war. Certainly most of them didn't vote for Bush. (Still, it's kinda nice to be accused of being in some vast conspiracy. It makes me feel important.) Anyway, it's a silly, stupid idea, but it doesn't detract from her right to express it. Forget about her divorce (which is very common among parents who have lost a child) and about what her great-aunt and unnamed cousins have said to the media about her. Let her have her say and if you don't feel it's newsworthy, don't cover her.