Posted by CODEPINK Staff
by Janet Weil
For this week’s inspiration, I need look no further than the letters from Iraqi and American mothers for Mother’s Day. From Iraqi mothers come stories of terrible suffering, violence by US soldiers and sectarian militias, and exile. These women also write with deep sympathy and understanding to the women of a country that invaded and occupied them: “I say sister because we are sisters in humanity and we both lived through hard times imposed on us by your government under many false perceptions to justify its invasion of my country.” Read the Iraqi women’s letters, translated from Arabic, here.
From mothers in the U.S., the dominant emotions expressed are sorrow, frustration at not being able to avert the war on Iraq and sympathy: “I am sorry for the pain and suffering our government’s war has caused the Iraqi people. I do not support war and am devastated by what we have done.” Read them and send your own here.
This sort of exchange is exactly the kind of woman-to-woman connection that Julia Ward Howe envisioned when she wrote her prophetic “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, and that Anna Jarvis organized to establish a national holiday (and later deplored its commercialization).
A fascinating new study of how the brain processes stories, compared to other kinds of information, tells us about “changes in neural patterns of volunteers after reading a narrative story based on real events” and that “reading simple, humanistic stories changes what is in our blood streams.” Yes, neuroscience confirms what we already knew: we love, remember, repeat and act on stories. So let’s be mindful of the stories we pay attention to, and change both stories about ourselves (“What can one person do?” “I’m so overwhelmed…” etc.) that do not serve us, and about the world.
When my son was 3 years old, he and his playgroup buddies used to yell: “Once upon a time… THE END!” They would then burst into raucous laughter, delighted with their send-up of narrative convention. I was delighted that they already had a sense of “metanarrative” and their ability to play with language.
War is a “story” we all need to say “Once upon a time… THE END!” to. War’s promises – that it is inevitable, solves problems, rescues the innocent, is the ultimate measure of heroism– have been shown, over and over again, to be lies or at most half-truths. It is literally a “dead end” story, one that poisons and limits imaginations even as it literally wounds and kills bodies. For refutations of war’s lies, please take a look at this book.
All over the world, women are enacting the REAL story of the “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, just not necessarily on Mother’s Day. Together we are creating a colorful, resilient, loving and dynamic “story of stories” for peace, justice and life.
On Sunday, I will join my sister codepinkers and our allies on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, as part of CODEPINK’s monthly Walk for Peace. We will carry signs and banners, remember, in particular, the grieving mothers of Iraq and Afghanistan, mourn the dead, read (some of) the words of the Mother’s Day Proclamation, and share our vision of a peaceful world with the hundreds of people going for a Sunday stroll on the bridge – and many will take photographs and talk to us.
As one woman wrote on the Mother’s Day Tumblr: “We have the power to offer to each other and to the world our compassion, our love, our determination and our hope.”
Happy Mother’s Day. Do something for peace today.