By Jodie Evans
The author, co-founder of the grass-roots peace and justice movement CODEPINK and board member of the Women’s Media Center, calls on us to honor Mother’s Day as it was originally intended—by the abolitionist, feminist and pacifist Julia Ward Howe.
May 6, 2009
Women know that war is SO over. We know it in our hearts, in our guts, in our wombs. We know that the madness in Iraq and Afghanistan has to end, that we cannot keep sending our children to kill the children of mothers across the globe. Last month at an appearance in Turkey, President Obama himself said “…sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved.”
It is nearly 140 years since Julia Ward Howe wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation, a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco–Prussian War. It flowed from her feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level. Every year since CODEPINK began in 2002, we have worked to remind the public and media that Mother’s Day isn’t really about Hallmark and Teleflora, but was a call for women to gather in “the great and general interests of peace.” Howe knew then what we know now. It will take women’s leadership to undermine what have become the USA’s greatest exports: Violence, Weapons and War.
This year we knew those who could attend our 24-hour weekend vigil outside the White House would be smaller than before, given the fiscal crunch we are all feeling. We created a project so those who wanted could add to the activities. In the past we have done an aerial image of thousands of bodies spelling Mother’s Say No To War photographed from the Washington Monument with the White House in the background. But this year we put out a call for people to knit pink and green squares that we would sew together to read “We will not raise our children to kill another mother’s child” and place across the White House fence. Thousands of pink and green knitted squares have been filling the basement of the CODEPINK house in D.C. They arrive with stories of how they were knitted with love, passion and conviction, with photos of the joys shared in knitting circles around the world. The surprise has been that more women than ever want to participate, more women want to join together in community and engage in conversation.
They want answers. What they hear in the media makes no sense. Why are we leaving more soldiers and private mercenaries in Iraq and not getting out on the date promised? Why are we moving soldiers to Afghanistan when our military has told us there is no military solution? How can we end the violence and protect the women? How can we turn our back on the women and children in Gaza? Why is the military budget larger than under Bush (and that’s not counting another supplemental on Iraq and Afghanistan tacked on)? Why are we spending so much money on destruction, when Obama himself said in his inaugural address, “people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy”?
Women are fired up to gather together and expose the emptiness of the continued push for more weapons and more money for war.
We hope that our gathering on Mother’s Day will plant the seeds of new energy and new coalitions we will need to affect a world drunk on war. It falls on us to bring peace to the table, to push our way to the table and not let up. Women know that instead of sending our young people overseas as soldiers, we need to send troops of doctors, teachers, business leaders, economists, farmers and peacekeepers who can build the economic structures for security to take root.
During our Mother’s Day weekend in DC, we will celebrate our sisterhood with song and poetry and fun, peace-building children’s activities, but we will also share our pain and grief by hearing the stories of women whose lives have been shattered by war—both women from war zones and mothers of American soldiers. When we bear witness to one another’s stories, we create a deeper, more compassionate foundation from which we can work together for peace.
Even if you can’t join us in D.C., you can send a rose to honor a mother whose life has been profoundly affected by war. On Mother’s Day we will deliver the roses to the mothers and tie others to the fence outside the White House as a memorial to the dead and a moving call for peace.
However you spend your Mother’s Day, remember those women who have relentlessly stood for our rights in the past and know that we can bring peace. But first we MUST see it as possible and put our hoe in the ground.