Every Mother's Day we mothers are subjected to the same consumer brainwash: that we deserve a “day off”, and flowers, and brunch – or at least breakfast in bed.
But Mother's Day originated as a call for peace after the grisly, divisive carnage of Civil War. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe wanted to appoint “a general congress of women without limit of nationality...to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”
On May 10, 1908 Anna Jarvis presided over the first official Mother's Day celebration at Andrew's Methodist Church... then was arrested trying to stop women selling flowers. She wanted to “keep the day one of sentiment not one of profit”.
In 2005, Israeli Nurit Peled-Elhanan, whose 13-year-old daughter was killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing, said, “Mothers have always been rebellious. In the Bible, in Greek mythology, there is always a mother who defies authority. The Talmud described mothers as prophets, because they looked ahead and understood what would happen to the children....”
Mother's Day is for the rebellious who concur, “Not for me flowers force-fed for profit in greenhouses built on land that ought to grow non-GM crops to feed the world's hungry and homeless”; “Not for me a day off, rather a day on...shutting down the -isms that thwart life's everyday ecstasy: neoliberalism, globalism, racism, sexism, elitism, oligarchic parasitism”, “Not for me a day in fealty to consumerism but to remember Wordsworth: “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”....
Instead of sitting down at the brunch table Mother's Day could signal the first day of the rest of our lives pledging to sit down in our nation's streets, blow our whistles, bang our pots, sound our alarms, and tell our politicians: “Stop bowing to the almighty corporate dollar, bring home our troops, tax the corporations and the rich to educate our children and ensure the health and well-being of all members of our society... or we will force you from office!”
Pledge to tell it like it is: profiteering shatters our society, tears up our earth, and contaminates our communities; sloganeering destroys our native intelligence, dumbs down our instincts, dulls our wits; careerism fogs our ethics, corrupts our morals, betrays our humanity; waging war kills the souls of all humans – whether made in America or where America makes war.
Fellow Americans may call us tough nuts, or a nut-busters, or just plain old nuts but remind them that another tough nut, United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler told us, even before transnational corporatism's firm grip on our time, our wallets, and our children, that:
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
Nurit Peled-Elhanan said, “Mothers, women in general, are not used to saying, “No! No, I am nobody's property. No! My children are nobody's property. No, my uterus is not a national asset.”
Lets try it. All together now: “No! No more wars promoted by patriotism but parlayed into profit.”
For, oh, we still have such a long way to go, baby!
Nurit Peled-Elhanan tells her story in Susan Galleymore's book, Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror, where she shares the stories of mothers in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, Israel, Afghanistan, and the US.