Sunday, June 7, 2009

Father's Day for Peace

For too long we men have used violence and war to settle our scores, leading to more violence and war.  We look away while bombs dropped in our names kill the children of fellow fathers and mothers in far away places, increasing the odds that our own children will one day be the victim of revenge attacks.

Imagine just for a moment how you would feel and what you would do if your own children were the “collateral damage.”  After all, the mothers and fathers of the world love our children and grieve their deaths in equal proportion.  We may shield our eyes, but if you listen you can hear the anguished cries.

In the wake of the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe called on the women of the world to unite against war, saying in her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation: “We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

But the men didn’t listen. Instead, our gender has led the charge in a parade of brutal wars, killing millions upon millions of beloved sons and daughters in every corner of the planet. Just last month, 65 children were killed in one strike in Afghanistan by U.S. bombs, according to a report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Children in Pakistan live in constant fear of being the next victim of an unmanned U.S. drone.

Enough. It’s time to put an end to war for the sake of our children, for the sake of all children.  The Mothers of the world have been ready to move beyond war as a means of resolving conflict for a long time.  It’s time for Fathers to hear the call and to do our part.

The term warrior has two definitions. The first is "a person engaged or experienced in warfare." The second is "a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage..”

It’s time for Fathers to stand up with courage and vigor to the war-makers and demand that no more children are bombed in our name in Afghanistan or anyplace else.  Let us vow to do unto the children of other fathers and mothers as we would have done unto ours. Let’s drop books and bread instead of bombs, and use the money saved to restore the planet that is the common inheritance of our children while we’re at it.

Jimi Hendrix once said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the people shall know peace.”  We have that power, Dads, in the love we collectively feel for our children.  Let’s make Father’s Day a day to begin realizing the full power of that love. Our children are counting on us.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Peace Day

More than 40 years before Anna Jarvis established Mother’s Day to honor individual mothers (before later campaigning against the commercialization of the Holiday), Julia Ward Howe organized Mothers’ Peace Days around the country in the wake of the Civil War. Howe, best know as author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, urged women throughout the world to join together to oppose war in her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870:

“Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say Firmly: 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, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

As bombs and bullets continue to kill and maim sons and daughters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Gaza and beyond, Howe’s plea is as relevant as it was 139 years ago. Just this week, U.S. bombs allegedly killed more than 100 civilians in one strike in Afghanistan, including scores of women and children who had sought shelter in houses and orchards.

Howe’s insight was that which unites us is stronger than that which divides us. After all, the mothers and fathers of the world love their children in equal proportion. A mother whose son or daughter is killed by a bomb in a small Afghanistan village grieves as deeply as a mother in the U.S. would if circumstances were reversed.

Precious few mother or fathers can imagine a justification for their own child being killed in the pursuit of a supposed political or military objective. Yet we too often turn a blind eye at reports of our tax-funded high tech weapons killing the children of others or rationalize it as an unfortunate consequence of “keeping us safe.” As if our children being bombed would not increase the likelihood of revenge attacks, making the attackers (and their children) less safe.

Following the recent Afghanistan bombardment, a throng of angry protesters chanted "Death to America". What would they have been chanting if instead of bombs, we had dropped books and bread?

So when, as Pete Seeger has asked in song for decades, will we ever learn? Another musician, Jimi Hendrix, had an answer: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the people shall know peace.”

If there exists love powerful enough to overcome the love of power with its violent implications, it is contained in the collective love of all the world’s mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. The potential to realize the full power of this love lies in connecting the feelings and concern we have for our own children to the feelings and concerns of every other parent and grandparent. We can take a step in this direction by insisting that no more mothers and children are bombed in our name in Afghanistan or anyplace else.

Were we to join in common cause, doing to the children of others as we’d have done unto ours – and demanding that our governments do the same -- the world would necessarily shift from war and violence toward peace and compassion. May this Mothers’ Day be fresh inspiration to renew this journey.