Mother’s Day: The Obscured Roots of a Global Peace Movement 

Sam Husseini says the origin of Mother’s Day has largely been obscured, helping pave the way for Trump’s embrace of women warriors and bearers of “the next generation of American patriots,” with a hint of the Nazi Mother’s Cross.”

In response to Georgia’s new anti-abortion law, the actress Alyssa Milano ?on Friday tweeted: “Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.” 

The same day, Donald and Melania Trump hosted a celebration of military mothers at the White House.  Said Trump: “To the active-duty moms here today: We thank you for your courage, and we applaud your noble service. You have two of the most important jobs in the world: bravely defending America from our enemies and helping to raise the next generation of American patriots.”

While Trump focuses on Mother’s Day, Milano harkens back to the sex strike in the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes.

The original Mother’s Day Proclamation, written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, says:
“We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a devastated 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. … ” 
Howe references Lysistrata in one of her lectures:
“Barring the indecencies which belong to the common taste of the time, and which are largely omitted in translations, the Greek of Aristophanes does not appear to me very damaging to our position as advocates of the rights of women. In one of these plays, Lysistrata, the women of Athens, weary of the absence of their husbands in the Peloponnesian war, take the negotiation of the peace into their own hands. Lysistrata, the leading spirit among them, has summoned together the women from various parts of Greece, with the view of wresting the management of public affairs from the hands of the men entrusted with them and of putting an end to the sinuous and devastating war. Whether intentionally or not, Aristophanes puts very sensible reasoning into the mouth of this leader among the women.”
Part of Lysistrata’s genius is that she reached out to women of other city-states, including Athen’s main rival, Sparta. The sex strike in Lysistrata targeted men on both sides of the war.

At one point in the play, Lysistrata leads a group of women to seize control of the Acropolis, which stores the financial reserves of the Athenian state.  She and a government magistrate are in a stand off. He asks: “Is it money that’s the cause of war?”

Lysistrata avoided arguments which are now commonplace about government having “bungled” its way into war and instead escalates her accusations against the politicians:
“Yes, and all the rest of the corruption. Peisander [a leading Athenian politician, suspected of favoring the war for selfish reasons] and our leading politicians need a chance to steal. That’s the reason they’re always stirring up disturbances. Well, let the ones who wish to do this do what they want, but from this moment on they’ll get no more money.” 
The Mothers’ Cross
Valarie Ziegler, author of of Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe, has written:

“Howe, now remembered for writing the words to The Battle of the Hymn Republic,’ was absolutely committed to the Civil War. … But by 1870, she began to look critically at war, particularly at war between nations. By this time, she was also very interested in the women’s movement and women’s suffrage. So, she began thinking of what might be possible for women to do on behalf of humanity. …

“She would in time hold peace conferences both in the United States and in Britain. … And so, Mother’s Day originally was not a day when dad cooked and you went to church, and the ladies got applause and everything. It was really a day for women to come together and to call men and the world to see the necessity for living in peace, rather than giving into the ravages and aggressions of war.”

That origin of Mother’s Day has largely been obscured, helping pave the way for Trump’s pronouncements to embrace women as warriors — and as bearers of “the next generation of American patriots,” with a just a hint of the Nazi Mother’s Cross.”

Howe.

Milano recently tweeted a 2017 article: History shows that sex strikes are a surprisingly effective strategy for political change.” The piece states: “Calls to end misogyny and sexism will always be necessary — especially while we have a self-admitted ‘pussy grabber’ in the Oval Office. But in order for a sex strike to succeed in the U.S., it must be inclusive, with a specific goal in mind. Otherwise, we’ll just be treading water.”

Treading water seems to be a specialty of politicians. The goal of much of the political establishment is to keep partisan hatred at a sufficiently high level. Among other things, it facilitates lesser-evilism, the dominant tactic of ensuring the bases of each major political party ask preciously little from their party, since the other is deemed so awful. And it usually is.

Defending Biden

Interestingly, Milano had just recently made headlines for defending Joe Biden from charges of sexual harassment. In the 1980’s, Biden voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade.

But that may seem as long ago as ancient Greece to some.

Certainly, both Mother’s Day and Lysistrata can be criticized for appearing to depict women as wombs or vessels of pleasure. But they are largely about women asserting themselves in the formation of societies. A refrain in Lysistrata is the dumbfounded male reaction: How dare you women assert yourselves on this serious man’s business of war?

The Mother’s Day Proclamation outright challenges the legitimacy of institutions that enable war.

The power of Mother’s Day and Lysistrata are their remarkable universal appeal and connection to the Feb. 15, 2003 global protests against the Iraq invasion — when the peace movement was viewed as the “second super power.” Indeed, Lysistrata was widely preformed widely during the buildup to the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. is at war in so many countriesAfghanistan,SyriaandIraq,Yemen,Libya,Somalia,placing deadly sanctions on Venezuela and Iran and continuously backing Israel’s ceaseless aggressions that it may be difficult to keep up.

It’s like fish and water. You want to know about U.S. and war? You’re swimming in it.

Traditions which might help lead us out of it — like Mother’s Day and Lysistrata — are being obscured by those who would control the culture and, consciously or not, ensuring war’s perpetuation.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy, and founder of VotePact.org, which encourages disenchanted Democrats and Republicans to pair up. Follow him on Twitter @samhusseini.

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9 comments for “Mother’s Day: The Obscured Roots of a Global Peace Movement 

  1. May 14, 2019 at 22:24

    Thank God for women leaders like Julia Ward Howe.

  2. May 13, 2019 at 10:47

    It seems odd, at first, that a life form would transform into a deadly weapon the means by which it had obtained existence –and thus ostensibly place human life on earth itself at risk– merely to achieve a necessarily temporary goal which logic and reason could resolve more satisfactorily, but then one recognizes that sex is potentially the most powerful weapon that females possess, in the minds of males for whom reason and logic are wasted.

  3. Jeanne Johns
    May 13, 2019 at 10:24

    Thank you for reminding us that honoring mothers did not begin as a trivial pat on the head, but a recognition of our power and our need to rise up and speak for ourselves and own children and the need for peace worldwide.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    May 12, 2019 at 19:54

    As much as I love the Lysistrada story, Americans don’t know the pain of war. They don’t know what it means to have your wife, husband, children etc slaughtered by an invading force that neither cares for your pain nor intends to follow the rules of war. They don’t know what it’s like to get a phone call telling you that […] bombed the crap out of the neighborhood this afternoon and your home is now a pile of rubble and the rest of your family is dead. Only when they truly have the empathy for what is being done to others will this kind of crap stop.

    The vast majority of Americans neither know nor care and the corporate media and the regime in Washington plan to keep them that way.

  5. Tom Kath
    May 12, 2019 at 19:29

    The most disconcerting paradox is that war rarely results in reduced population. – eg. There were more Germans at the end of WW2 than at the beginning of it. “Baby Booms” are not unrelated phenomena.
    Having said that, there does seem to be universal agreement that the population of humans needs to be reduced. I suppose the conflict is only about “how” and “which ones” ? Some feel that preventing life is better than ending it. Others believe that it is not the length of it that makes a life worthy.

  6. LJ Speaks
    May 12, 2019 at 16:19

    Ghandi used to be handy. That was a while ago. Momma’s Day is spent not looking for Peace in the world but in thrall of Peace in one’s one family motivated by a sense of guilt and tradition. Don’t get me wrong , I miss my mother but she was about order and excellence. Peace was not as important as the exercise of her own will and sense of purpose. This is the backbone of our society and do not even try to forget it.

  7. Mark Stanley
    May 12, 2019 at 12:33

    Excellent Sam.
    Athenian women reaching out to the women of Sparta. Why not?
    We know that the Iroquois Confederation was formed to insist on peace between those tribes that were continuously fighting with each other. It worked, but the men responded by fighting with tribes outside of the Confederation—for one pushing the Osage off into northern Arkansas.
    I’m not sure how true it is, but I read that in some of those tribes the women strictly controlled the food supply, so when a group of hot headed young men wanted to go on the warpath the women would sometimes refuse to give them food, nullifying the insanity.
    Today, if someone is hyperventilating about Russiagate, I make a suggestion:
    Go to St. Petersburg or Moscow during tourist season and take in the museums, a symphony, opera, or a ballet (they do that very well there!)

  8. Dee Cee
    May 12, 2019 at 09:22

    Thank you for writing this article! I didn’t know the origin of Mother’s Day, but reading your article gave me inspiration to write my own. PS: You cut off the Howe quote a little short, so in my application of the quotation, I included more of her own original language. I’m posting it here to share:

    Hi Everyone:

    I’ve been so, so busy trying to get my multiple projects rolling that I have to be honest, I did not put cards in the mail. I usually do Mother’s Day on a consistent basis. I feel a little bad about it, since last night I informed Anthony that Mother’s Day is the 18th, and he said, “No, Donna, it’s tomorrow.” So, this morning I thought I’d share a sentiment that has only grown and grown in me over the course of the last several years.

    As you all will know, I graduated high school in May 2001, and started college within two weeks of 9/11. I often say that “My entire college education was defined by 9/11.” But I would go further to say that my entire adult life so far has now been defined by the new world order (lower case) that was escorted into existence by that seminal event. As of that date, we as a nation have engaged in five new wars (both hot and cold), which show no sign of ceasing. These include: Iraq, Syria, Libya, China (trade war), and the sad reawakening of the Cold War with Russia. Unlike any other war in American history, none of these engagements has a clear set of goals, nor a distinct exit strategy. As you might already know, the Afghanistan War is now the longest ongoing military engagement in U.S. history. And now we women run the very serious risk of raising sons who will become veterans of the same war as their fathers. Some of us already have seen this happen in their own families.

    As a war-weary society Americans accepted the promises of a certain candidate, whose words seemed stark in contrast to the substantial record of war-mongering by his opponent. I have to say I was enticed more by the promise to end the program of interventionism and couldn’t bring myself to vote otherwise. This, to me, was the seminal issue of the election. Three years on from the last election, we Americans are now confronted with the reality that the foreign policies of our current administration do nothing to reduce foreign interventionism. Indeed, we are awash presently with rhetoric and certain distinct political and military movements that are leading to simultaneously engaging in two additional wars: Venezuela and the long-awaited war with Iran (which Americans have been conditioned to accept since the 1960s). With that, the promises to end the current wars evaporate into thin air.

    You’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to get around to telling you something uplifting on Mother’s Day… so here it is:

    Our special day was first proposed in 1870 by a woman named Julia Ward Howe. In her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” she wrote:

    “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a devastated 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 to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.”

    Thus the concept of Mother’s Day was introduced here in America from the seed of hope that we, as women, could affect change through our actions that would stem the tide of war. This sentiment is apt in our time.

    As we proceed into the coming years, recall that God created women in His image with His distinct ability to create new life. It was through one woman that man’s salvation, the human embodiment of God, passed into human existence and became True God and True Man. This woman is called the Ark of the New Covenant. Women were chosen as the vessels that would bring new life, both physically and spiritually, thus our unique build gives us also an incredible power. This relationship we bear to God is a truly special talent, and with this talent comes the responsibility to act in accordance with His will. Through this life-giving ability comes the unique capability to engender the purest form of love for our fellow man, to plants seeds of peace in an entire generation, and through the loving upbringing of children and quiet influence we exert over our husbands, we can and often do de-escalate conflicts large and small, because it is through our wombs that true compassion springs. As such, whether we are in the child-bearing years, or beyond, we should all spend some time reflecting today, or perhaps prayerfully contemplating, how we can be handmaidens of God, in order to further his Peace here on Earth.

    I hope this letter comes across sounding as beautiful and inspirational as I intended. Maybe it’s a little more meaningful than a Hallmark. I hope you all have a truly blessed day.

    Happy Mother’s Day

    Dee Dee

    • Jeff Harrison
      May 12, 2019 at 20:00

      You might want to add to your observation that none of the wars we are in the midst of have a clear set of consistent goals (as opposed to a constantly moving set of goal posts) or an exit strategy, the observation that there is largely a non-existent raison d’etre for the war.

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