Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lynne Stewart: A Love Story by Cindy Sheehan

Iris Baez, Cindy, and Lynne

I was dismayed to learn that my friend and hero Lynne Stewart had made her transition due to complications of treatment for cancer last week on March 7th, 2017.

I met Lynne in the flesh in 2005, about one year after my son Casey was killed in Iraq and a few months before I went to Crawford TX to try and confront George Bush there at his fake ranch.

Lynne was on a speaking tour to raise money for her defense (from charges stemming from her defense of the "Blind Sheik). I was invited to speak about the war alongside Lynne and Matt Gonzalez. At that point, I called Lynne: "Atticus Finch in the flesh."

Since that time, and getting to know Lynne better over the years, I know that she was far more than Atticus, who made a very unpopular choice to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in the 1930s in the American South, but Lynne believed in the revolutionary causes of the unpopular people she defended.

As an attorney in New York, Lynne defended Black Panthers, poor people who couldn't afford to pay, and even a member of the Weather Underground. Lynne courageously opposed the philosophy of non-violence and was quoted once as saying about violence "directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support." Not a very popular position to hold, but revolutionaries aren't always well-loved, but,  especially in Lynne's case, very principled.

I wrote to Lynne frequently while she was unjustly incarcerated in prison in Texas (far from her husband, Ralph Poynter) and I always got a very upbeat communication from her. I marveled at her cheerfulness while being treated for cancer in a Federal Prison. I am even more in awe of her spirit after caring for my sister Dede who also suffered from breast cancer and the awful side affects of the treatment and Dede was in a comfortable home always surrounded by loved ones.

Lynne was able have several years with her family, friends, and comrades after she was given "compassionate" release from prison at the very end of 2013 and I am grateful (as I know many others were) for the time she had with them. Right after her release, she went on a tour to say "thank you" to her supporters and I was so happy to see her in Sacramento. Unfortunately, the time she had free coincided with the time I had to remain close to home here in California to care for Dede, or I would definitely have loved to see more of Lynne.

I send my deepest condolences to Ralph (who lost not only a spouse, but a comrade) and Lynne's other family at this time of profound loss.

It's one thing to observe a public figure and draw conclusions, but if you knew Lynne, you knew that her life and her activism (inseparable from her life) was motivated by love for the poor and oppressed. It is a cliché to say that a "bright light has been extinguished," but I can think of few people that this is more true of than our dear Lynne Stewart.



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