What happened to us mothers? We allowed this holiday to get away from us. We allowed it to become commercialized, individualized, commodified, unpoliticized. We allowed it to be about superficial symbols of love—flowers and chocolates and store-bought cards. We allowed it be a time when we, as mothers, sit back and receive personal recognition, instead of a time when we, as mothers, stand up together to make collective demands.
Let’s be clear about what Mothers Day was supposed to be, before it fell out of our grip. It was the brainchild of a brilliant woman, Julia Ward Howe, who was horrified by the carnage and suffering during the Civil War and the economic devastation that followed. She was also heart-broken by the outbreak of war between France and Germany in 1870, with its ominous display of German military might and imperial designs. She used her poetic gift to pen a proclamation against war, a proclamation that birthed Mothers Day.
"Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause," Julia wrote. "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. " Her solution? Women should gather together to "promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."
So here we are, more than a century later, still in the throes of wars abroad and violence in our communities. But instead of coming together to say “Disarm, disarm,” we are content with trinkets and breakfast in bed. Isn’t it time to get out of bed, out of the kitchen, out of the house and into the streets? We should be demanding that our government stop pillaging our treasury by spending $2 billion a week on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. We should be demanding good education and forgiveness of our children’s college loans, not more money for the bloated Pentagon. We should be demanding that the guns that kill over 30,000 of our sons and daughters every year here at home be banished from the store shelves. We should demand that our nation stop locking up our children for nonviolent crimes, just to feed a disgraceful private prison industry. We should demand that conflict resolution be mandatory in our schools to stop bullying and prejudice, and that diplomacy be mandatory in our foreign relations.
This is our day, moms. Let’s reclaim it and embrace its origins. Our day should not be solely about us, as individuals, but about us embodying the collective desires of mothers around the world—to stop our children from killing and being killed by others mother’s children. No one is going to bring that to us on a breakfast platter; it’s something that we women demand.
Happy Mothers Day.