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Mother's Day in Crawford

Cindy Sheehan's protest captures the spirit of Mother's Day better than the Hallmark holiday in May.
 
 
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When Cindy Sheehan marched into Crawford, Texas to ask President Bush why her son died in Iraq, it was Mother's Day.

Not the Hallmark-infused, soft focus, breakfast-in-bed Mother's Day that shows up on the calendar in May. This was the day that Julia Ward Howe envisioned when she created Mother's Day in 1870 as a time for all the mothers who lost their sons in the Civil War to protest such senseless violence.

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation begins:

Arise then ... women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!

Cindy Sheehan has risen up against the senseless violence of this war in Iraq, and countless women and men have risen up with her. The numbers at Camp Casey continue to swell, and support pours in from all corners of the globe. While George Bush says he feels Sheehan's pain but must "get on with his life," Sheehan's supporters are uprooting themselves from their lives, often at great personal sacrifice, to keep vigil beside her under the hot Texas sun.

Tired of seeing our soldiers and countless Iraqis die in an unjustified war, millions of Americans, especially mothers, are joining Sheehan's revolution of the heart. And in the process, they're exposing Bush's own heartlessness for refusing to meet with a grieving mother, and more tragically, for needlessly putting our sons and daughters in harm's way.

Those in the smear-Cindy camp have told Sheehan, in no uncertain terms, that she should go back home, where she belongs. But Sheehan has followed Julia Ward Howe's imperative:

As men have often forsaken the plough 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.

Sheehan's hoped-for day of counsel with Bush may never arrive. But another sort of counsel is taking place, the sort that Howe imagined:

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace ...

This is precisely what is happening at the vigil in Crawford, Texas. Women are running the camp itself, organizing Sheehan's schedule, holding women's circles to share their grief and hope, writing letters appealing to Laura Bush, and strategizing ways to broaden and deepen this movement for peace.

During the Vietnam era, the anti-war movement was fueled primarily by students. Today, the anti-war movement is being fueled largely by mothers. Look at some of the organizations that have been created in the last few years: CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Raging Grannies. All of them reflect a mother's intense desire to not only shield her children from harm but to stop her children from doing harm to others.

Again, we hear the voice of Julia Howe.

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.

In a recent statement urging Americans to listen to Cindy Sheehan, Elizabeth Edwards said, "If we are decent and compassionate, if we know the lessons we taught our children, or if, selfishly, all we want is the long line of the brave to protect us in the future, we should listen to the mothers now." Thanks to Cindy Sheehan, the mothers have arisen. Thanks to Cindy Sheehan, the world can't help but listen. Hopefully, George Bush is also hearing the message.

Medea Benjamin and Gayle Brandeis are members of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a group that has been actively involved in the vigil in Crawford, Texas.