It has been more than 150 years since Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis lived and mothered on this planet. Most people are not aware that our current U.S. Mother's Day began as a campaign for cleanliness and sanitation. Anna Jarvis gave birth to 11 children, four who made it to adulthood, and the rest died from childhood sicknesses brought on by a lack of proper sanitation.
In addition to the lack of sanitary conditions during the mid-1800s, the U.S. Civil War was in full swing between 1861-1865. Julia Ward Howe campaigned for women to show grace and gentleness to the soldiers fighting on both sides of the U.S. Civil War., not take sides. She and Anna Jarvis brought what they learned about sanitation into their efforts to care for and treat wounded soldiers. The carnage of a war fought with lead bullets, cannons that blew away entire limbs, and other war machines was more than Howe could bear without penning a plea to mothers everywhere. I am confident we could find mothers of Ukraine, Sudan, and other countries that agree: "We women of one country will (MUST) be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience."
In a 2009 conversation with Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW, Susan Gallymore, speaking of her son's experience in Iraq, shares,
"I feel like we, the people, don't understand what's going on in these wars. We don't understand who the people are that we are fighting. We don't understand who the Iraqis are. We don't understand who the Afghan people are.
And we, the mothers of this country, need to learn. So, what I would like to say to mothers this Mother's Day is, instead of going out for brunch, say to your family, "Let's stay home and learn who these people are. Let's learn what these wars are about. Let's learn why, for example, someone like Anwar Jawad would have her whole family slaughtered on the streets by people, our troops, our troops. So let's learn. Let's learn who the Afghan people are."
Why did we just have 150 civilians killed in Afghanistan? They called it a random shooting incident in Baghdad when people were killed in the street. What do they call it when we bomb people in Afghanistan, civilians, women, and children? We need to understand this. And I want the mothers of the United States to understand that we can stay home instead of go out for brunch and learn about this. And we can learn why our children in the military want to get out of there so desperately." (https://www.democracynow.org/2009/5/8/author_susan_galleymore_on_long_time)
Gallymore's questions and her plea for educating ourselves about other humans is thee plea of this century. It mirrors Howe's plea for a general congress of women to gather, "In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."
Who benefits from an "us vs them" story? Only those who are benefiting from war. And as we know, war is a story of profit more than it is a story of differences. When? When will the mothers gather together to collectively stand on the ground of our beloved and sacred Mother Earth, in partnership with her, and claim our safety beside hers? The safety of all! When will we utilize our motherly strength and our motherly grace to end these wars? To end the destruction of our sons' bodies, minds, and souls? Because that is really what is at stake here… the well-being of our very souls. This is a plea to remember the sacredness of humanity. All humanity. To put aside forever the narrative of a dominate-based world and to deeply- in your cells- remember that we are all God's children. All. That means all.
So I also ask you… leave the flowers and the brunch… and take my hand in yours. So that we may know each other as God knows us. Look into each other to see, in-to-me-see, intimacy. Might you find a part of your own heart? This Mother's Day, let us look into this world with the eyes of truth. Let us come correct in our violence toward each other. Let us remember and remind each other of our inherent worth and dignity, our imperative sacredness, and protect that which is most valuable: LIFE.