Letter to Cindy Sheehan

I read Cindy Sheehan’s sad, bitter letter of resignation from her de-facto position as the face of the American anti-war movement and felt led to mail Cindy this letter from Vietnam.

30 May 2007

Dear Cindy,

Thank you so much for the energy, devotion and imagination that you have devoted to the cause of Peace. Your efforts have been magnificent. I am so very sorry that they were not more effective in changing the direction of the American government. I, too, have lost hope for America. I worked hard in the days leading up to the 2004 Presidential election and was absolutely floored when King George was re-elected. I know that the election results may have been tampered with in some localities, but the fact that something even approaching 50% of the American electorate chose to re-elect him staggered me! With a public that brainwashed and a “free press” that deeply enmeshed in the brainwashing process, how is any positive change possible? Even so, my hopes were re-kindled when the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress and we seemed to have some savvy leaders in charge. What a disappointment! This system is so distorted that it is impervious to meaningful change. And I agree with you about the divisiveness of the Left. When I read “liberal” responses to Rabbi Michael Lerner’s call for a new, compassionate approach to counter the politics of fear that Bush and Cheney endorse, I am horrified at how tone-deaf and self-righteous his agenda-driven “left-wing” critics are. How can we possibly build a consensus when good-hearted people who reach out to us all are attacked from both the Left and the Right?

Let me tell you what I did to lift myself out of the feelings of despair and hopelessness that I experienced in the aftermath of the 2004 elections:

I left America and moved to Vietnam!

There were quite a few intermediary steps—a short-term volunteer trip to Vietnam; establishing my own non-profit organization (Steady Footsteps, Inc.); deciding to quit my job and sell my house and then—taking the money and heading to Vietnam to live and to do charitable work where people still suffer from the results of a previous American adventure, but where life is now peaceful enough that a middle-aged American woman can live securely and do meaningful work.

You have done so much good work and endured so much negative crap! Can you imagine a life where you could use the positive contacts that you have to do meaningful work in an atmosphere of appreciation? Consider this: the cost of living comfortably in a peaceful third world country is very low, compared to America. Likewise, the cost of making meaningful changes to poor people’s lives is very low, by American standards. The trick is to actually live in the poor country, rather than travelling to it now and again and relying on quick visits to figure out how best to help people.

I am not rich by American standards at all. I am living and operating my modest charity on the proceeds of selling my American house. You might not be so fortunate as to own a house free and clear, but I’ll bet that you have the potential for generating a decent advance by committing to writing a book. Consider taking that sum and starting a new life and a new humanitarian organization outside of the US. It doesn’t have to be a huge operation at all. My own organization consists of me and my husband and the young woman that I’ve hired as a translator. I volunteer as a physical therapy clinical instructor at a rehabilitation hospital in Da Nang three mornings a week. The remainder of my time is free for reading and writing and working on other projects that interest me (like getting all the health care workers in Da Nang to wear motorbike helmets when they travel in town). I don’t cook and I don’t do much shopping. My life is far more relaxed than it ever was in the US—and much, much cheaper! I keep in touch with the world and with my friends via high-speed internet—whenever I’m in the mood.

Again, thank you so much for all you have tried to do for America—and for the people of Iraq. You have been an inspiration to me and to many others. But consider, now, an alternate life. Consider leaving the US, not because you despair, but because you can find a new way of leading a meaning-filled and peaceful life.

All my best thoughts are with you,

Virginia Lockett, PT
President and Founder
Steady Footsteps, Inc.