Monday, May 10, 2004

Mother's Day 2004

Here I go again with probably misplaced optimism, but I've got to believe that as this torture scandal unfolds -- that as we learn that tactics like this are an all-too-commonplace and inevitable part of war -- that millions more will be added to the roster of full-time anti-war activists. It is difficult to think too much about what is going on in Iraq. It is easy to take comfort in the glorious patriotic images that Fox News displays for our general anesthesia. The disturbing truths about war are part of the horrible collective guilt carried about (usually in silence) by veterans of war. We know that the young people who find themselves in uniform in Iraq are our friends and neighbors. We don't want to believe that there is a system of indoctrination and discipline that could cause a dear friend and neighbor to drag a naked prisoner around on a leash. Yet there it is, in front of us. "War is hell" doesn't begin to summon up the destruction of the soul that wounds all participants in war. War is never the answer, and maybe the horrors of this scandal will convince skeptics. In the aftermath of war, we learn time and again of the deceit and treachery that led us into it... the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction and the faked Gulf of Tonkin resolution take their place in history beside "Remember the Maine!" and "a war to end all wars," as the hateful ruses that lead a generation to slaughter.

In 1872, Julia Ward Howe's revulsion at war one led her to call upon all mothers:
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of fears! Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 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 devasted 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 plow 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace."

-- This is the true and original meaning of Mother's Day, as articulated by the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Happy Mother's Day.

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