Saturday, May 9, 2009

What if, this year, American mothers refused Mother's Day brunch and, instead, learned about war?

For the last four years I've traveled around the Greater Middle East gathering stories and bringing home messages of peace to American mothers.
My journey began when I met Amwar Jeward in Iraq in 2004. I was there to visit my son on a military base and to tell him, "Don't do anything in this country that you'll be ashamed of as it will haunt you for the rest of your life." Anwar related how her husband and three children were shot to death while driving in the family car in their Baghdad neighborhood.
The perpetrators of this "random shooting incident" were young Army personnel...those who now live with the shame of this event for the rest of their lives.
Anwar said, "Tell Americans there is tragedy in Iraq."
I took up her challenge and expanded it into a "big picture view" that includes Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria, Israel and the West Bank, and the US.
In a small south Lebanon village, five months after the so-called "33 Day War" of 2006, Elham said, "Please, tell American mothers to try to feel how Arab women feel - Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi; like you, none of us want to lose our sons, our families, our communities to war."
In K'far Kila, on the Lebanon/Israel border, as I sat with her family watching "reality TV" showing American troops blown up by IEDs in Iraq, Fatima said, "We mothers have more in common with one another than we do with the policians that run our countries. Mothers must work together for peace."
Israeli mother Nurit Peled Elhanan, who lost her daughter to a suicide bomb yet continues to work for peace, concurs. "Bush, Sharon, Milosovic, Saddam, they are all the same. They share a Mafia logic and they use our kids like chips in a gambling game. Then, when our kids get killed they say, 'Oops, sorry!' and they move on. When this war is over, there'll be another war...because the politicians always need a war, a war on drugs, a war on poverty, a war on people who are different...."
Indeed, it is this Mafia logic that continues to send our American youth to wars perpetrated by the politicians of our country.
But it is We the People who stand by and let that happen. And we, the mothers, who can refuse our children to war.
Imagine if, on Mothers Day, American mothers said, "Thank you, but instead of going out for brunch this year, let us stay home as a family and, together, learn more about Afghanistan, Afghan culture, and why that war is raging. Why, for example, were 150 people, mostly women and children, killed by US bombs this week? How does the most powerful military in the world mistakenly bomb 17 civilians homes? Who will recompense those families? And how?
Imagine American mothers saying, "Instead of brunch, let us stay home and learn how the US military coerces our young people into enlisting. Let's learn how those young people are threatened with fines, law suits, and imprisonment when they want to break their flimsy contracts.
Imagine mothers saying, "This year let us see through the propaganda about the "right to defend oneself" and reach out to mothers in Israel and Palestine and listen to their stories. Let us listen to the stories of hundreds of thousands of refugee mothers in makeshift camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Let us listen to them about who they are rather than to our politicians telling us who they are.
Imagine mothers saying, "This Mother's Day let us learn about war so that we can learn about how to create peace for all our communities."

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