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Mother’s Day Proclamation – it’s not what you think it is - Erin Norman — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Mother’s Day Proclamation – it’s not what you think it is [Mar. 14th, 2010|04:39 pm]
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Written in 1870 by a feminist, pacifist and activist, Julia Ward Howe's “Mother’s Day Proclamation” has nothing to do with women harassed by an over demanding modern life or a nice lunch out. Far more unsettling, it is a raw and powerful piece of writing that expresses the impotent fury of women forced to send their flesh and blood off to die in the name of causes that they did not believe in. Women who knew their sons were massacring the sons of other women who felt exactly the same way. What she writes was and is still revolutionary; we don’t want our men coming home covered in blood and asking for congratulations. We don’t want to raise our sons to be conscientious members of society, only to have them taken away and taught to kill. We say that the government does not know best, and we no longer wish to have our lives dictated by them.

The women she was writing for nursed through the night without the aid of medicines and slaved away to keep their families fed and clothed. They were largely without choices in life. They often married whom they were told to, had sex when they were told to and had babies when they passively became impregnated. Whether or not they lived through the whole experience was in the hands of the gods.

Irrespective of the circumstances that women have lived in, with few exceptions they show a notably feral love for their children. It is not uncommon to find a mouse transform into a tigress if her cubs are threatened. Julia Ward Howe was writing in response to the carnage of her place and time, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, but her words ring crystal clear to us today. I would urge for them to be passed on, so that her vision can still inspire 140 years later.

“Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.”


[User Picture]From: ron_broxted
2010-03-14 06:31 pm (UTC)

Rear Admiral Haslam?

I lost count of the number of tags you have. I'm the other way round. More entries than tags, just a different way of blogging eh.
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From: goodqueenmolly
2010-03-14 06:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reminding me about that wonderful piece of writing
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[User Picture]From: barrycurtis
2010-03-15 12:15 am (UTC)

Fighting can be noble

Hi Erin,

Well written piece, as always. But I beg to differ on the central argument - that people dying in wars is always worthless and that a committee of women should oversee this doesn’t happen.

The pointlessness of war is at the forefront of society at the moment with the useless carnage going on in Afghanistan. But with an Afghan death toll of 30,000 and continuous air-strike cock-ups ensuring the figure is rising, isn’t it understandable that some of their compatriots rise up in arms against NATO? What I am saying is that sometimes it is admirable and necessary for the oppressed to take up arms against the oppressor nations. Indeed it could be argued that it is NATO’s risk-averse feminist inspired softly softliness (e.g. telling the enemy when and where they are going to attack in advance) that is prolonging the conflict, adding to the death toll in the long-run.

That sometimes a cause is worth dying for is brought out in stark contrast in the modern sci-fi classic “Sunshine” where a crew of astronauts are on a certain-death mission to reignite a dying Sun. They know they won’t make it back yet they view themselves as “expendable” because the Greater Good, i.e. the continued survival of the human race and life on earth, is more important than their own lives. When people are gripped by political causes, they too see their own life’s worth as part of a larger whole, and will therefore undergo many sacrifices in pursuit of their cause. The mothers should respect this decision if they want their son’s life to have meaning.

Julia Ward Howe says a general congress of multi-national women should be appointed to oversee all conflicts in the interests of peace, but ‘appointed’ by who, pray tell? Doth not he that pay the piper also call the tune? And isn’t it a bit sexist to assume women will automatically act in the interests of peace against masculine realpolitik? This wouldn’t seem to be the case with the likes of Clare Short MP who was one of the most vociferous cheerleaders of NATO’s war against Serbia in 1999.

Women, like men, will fight and die for what they believe in, like Suffragette Emily Davison who threw herself under the king’s horse in the 1913 Derby to highlight the plight of women that needed the right to vote. It is doubtful that the struggle for equality that erupted could be solved meaningfully by some quasi-UN committee, sometimes battles have to be fought and sacrifices made.

But Happy Mother’s Day, anyway,
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[User Picture]From: erinnorman
2010-03-15 12:36 am (UTC)

Re: Fighting can be noble

Barry I appreciate your comments any day, and I do agree with the core of what you are saying - I think the two messages need to meet in moderation.

A large aspect of what Julia wrote that I want to advocate today is to abandon the mindless obedience to "Caesar". So much of what she wrote rings true - mothers knowing exactly how the enemy's mothers are feeling and wondering, is it worth it, doing it this way?

The other point she makes, and this is one that I think is particularly relevant where there is fighting over land, (for example in the West Bank) "The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession" My constant hero, Bertrand Russell said "War doesn't determine who is right, only who is left."

There are countless historical and current examples of circumstances that would justify my own sacrifice of life, and I would respect the same decision in my son (when he becomes an adult) as much as it would break my heart. But many soldiers are only overgrown children who are little more than brainwashed. Fighting is too much a reflexive action when it should be a last resort.

However I agree with you that women alone are not the divine holders of peace. You have to admit though historically it's men who've tended to spur on the wars; from Julia Ward Howe's point of view this was the logical antidote. Women were justifiably fed up of watching the endless slaughter and having no say in the process.

Thanks for the Mother's Day wishes. I accidentally swallowed half a tooth, its been that kind of day.

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From: gulliver055
2010-03-24 04:16 am (UTC)


I always knew that you would
take yourself
far from home
as soon as
as far as
you could go

By the 1/4 inch cut of your hair
and the Army issue green
for the past eight weeks I can tell

where you've been

For I knew I could see
it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room
and when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun

So now you are one of the brave few
it's awful sad we need
boys like you

I hope the day never comes for
"Here's your live round son. Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun."

Well I knew
I could see
it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldiers blue blood streaming inside your veins

There is a world outside of this room
and when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun
taking aim

For I don't mean to argue
they've made a decent boy of you
and I don't mean to spoil your home coming
but baby brother you should expect me to.

"Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun."

So now does your heart pitter pat with a patriotic song
when you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?
Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
there was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins.
There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
you won't meet it with your gun taking aim.
I don't mean to argue, they've made a decent boy of you
and I don't mean to spoil your homecoming my baby brother Jude
and I don't mean to hurt you by saying this again,
they're so good at making soldiers but they're not so good at making men.


Cheers Erin.
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