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What do women want? Peace.

May 6, 2011

Mother’s Day approaches.

My previous post suggests that release and its rewards — grounding, presence, healing, peace — arrive with allowing ourselves to experience the collision of opposites. We find a way to wrap our arms around both that and this.

We draw a circle around yes and no, like and dislike, hurter and hurtee,  me and not-me. Myself and the other.

Doing so, we give up righteousness, the hard-and-fast position that only we know the way it is, the way it should be. We let our oh-so-shiny certainty soften around the edges.

There’s a word for wrapping-our-arms-around-both:


Mother’s Day approaches.

This year, I’m thinking of it as (M)other’s Day.

The origin of Mother’s Day in the United States traces to Julia Ward Howe, the woman who, in 1861, wrote the words we know as The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The song became anthem for Union soldiers and patriots in the War Between the States.

As mother’s son slaughtered mother’s son, America’s civil war became a series of atrocities. In response, in 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for women to, essentially, manage global politics. Her words are stunning, brilliant, and more than relevant nearly 150 years later. Check this out:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage….
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of 
charity, mercy and patience….”
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….
Let [women] meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace….

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed…
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

— Julia Ward Howe

Interest in Howe’s proposal for Mother’s Day petered out. A West Virginia woman, Anna Reeves Jarvis, and friends took the ball and ran with Howe’s idea. They recast it as Mother’s Friendship Day, a time to reconcile the friends and relations who had sided with opposing armies during the War Between the States.

Following her mother’s death, Anna M. Jarvis pressed for official recognition of Mother’s Day to honor both the memory of her mother and the desire for peace. In 1914, Mother’s Day became a national holiday in the United States.

Now I’m thinking of the day as (M)other’s Day.

Listen to these two women who, understandably, could consider themselves to be mortal enemies. One woman’s son died on September 11. The other woman’s son is accused of causing his death.

The American woman speaks of their reconciliation and deep friendship, ending with:

I think it’s all about being afraid of the other but making that step. And then realizing, hey, this wasn’t so hard. Who else can I meet that I don’t know, or that I’m so different from?

The Arab woman concludes:

Il faut essayer de connaitre “l’autre.”
Il faut être genereux, genereux de coeur, et d’esprit.
Et de la tolerance.
Il faut lutter contre la violence!
Et j’espère qu’un jour on va vivre ensemble dans la paix et dans le respect des uns et des autres.

We must try to know “the other.”
We must be generous, generous in heart and mind.
And tolerant.
We must struggle against violence.
And I hope that one day we will live together in peace and respect for each other.

to Kristin Espinasse and French Word-A-Day for this video link.

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