Friday, May 11, 2007

Mother’s Day: To interfere or not to interfere, that is the question

Mother’s Day: To interfere or not to interfere, that is the question

Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?”

Julia Ward Howe – famous for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic – wrote this in her journal in 1870, just after the Civil War. She said this one question “haunted” her and responded by writing a Mother’s Day Proclamation, calling all women to rise up and oppose war on a day she named “Mother’s Day”. Today, as we mourn the deaths of our soldiers, embrace sons & daughters returning home scarred from the Iraq war, and hear reports of Iraqi casualties ranging from 30,000 (Bush Administration) to 650,000 (John Hopkins School of Public Health), it’s time to ask this question again and reclaim the original vision of Mother’s Day.

Howe wrote, “Arise, arise, all women who have hearts!” but somewhere along the way, breakfast in bed eclipsed this fiery call to activism. But all is not lost! After decades of burnt toast and loving messages, mothers have been sufficiently fortified and indeed are fulfilling Julia’s vision of uniting for our global family and are finding individual and collective ways to interfere. Mother’s Day is again becoming a day when we not only honor our mothers, but also their role in affecting social change in our world.

The Mother’s Day Proclamation urges women to “solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace”. Many of us know the grim statistics about our family’s and especially our children’s wellbeing around the world, yet often mothers – due to laws, societal norms or simply because we haven’t seen it as our role to speak out – have remained outside political circles. But in a world in which every other child lives in poverty, global warming poses an irreversible threat to future generations, and almost half of war causalities are children (source: UNICEF), the world needs mothers to interfere.

Let’s reclaim Mother’s Day this year by calling on congressional members and urging them to freeze military spending (the US military budget is already bigger than all other military budgets in the world combined). And begin to use some of those funds to find peaceful solutions to our conflicts, like contributing to building schools worldwide, funding our promised share of the Millennium Development Goals (eight international targets to end extreme poverty), and addressing global warming.

There’s no time to waste mothers – the United States has a new $699 billion* military budget, (renamed “security budget”) awaiting congressional approval, without a penny of that money going towards the three issues that pose the greatest threat to our global family: poverty, environment and the impact of war on children. Children's wellbeing is at the top of every mother's agenda. It's time to bring it to the top of our political agendas.

Recently, the first mother Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was criticized for interfering by traveling to Syria to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad. In response she said,As a mother, I will exhaust every remedy for Peace.” It’s hopefully a refrain we will hear more and more often, on Mother’s Day and whenever mothers interfere.

* includes supplemental spending for the “Global War on Terror” (source: Office of Management and Budget)

Juliana Forbes is a mother of two and a cofounder of Mothers Acting Up, a movement of mothers (and others) publicly and passionately advocating for the world’s children.

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