Loving in the War Zone

Human Rights

In the midst of preparing to take my 1-year-old daughter to the Republican National Convention, I came across Judith Matloff's article in Columbia Journalism Review on mothers who are war correspondents. Although the U.S. doesn't officially have a war going on within its borders, I could relate. At a time when free speech is becoming more and more unfashionable in this country, I too am wondering about baby gas masks and how to juggle running from the heat of the action with making sure my daughter is as far from it as possible. In New York, both mother reporters and mother protestors will be trying to balance the dual instincts of being with their babies, protecting them at any cost, and jumping into the fray.

Recent articles have gushed on about how fashionable, how hip, how now motherhood was. And if you judge only from the omnipresent pregnant bellies in People, you can see their point. But it is only the accessories of motherhood that are fashionable – the clothes, the stroller, the organic canvas carrying devices, the large but reassuringly temporary belly. The truths of motherhood, as Susan J. Douglas and others point out, are particularly unfashionable. National healthcare? Yesterday's news. Subsidized childcare? Almost nonexistent. And free speech – something I've found that babies and their mothers are often particularly fond of – well, indulge in it at your own risk, gas mask recommended.

Of course the CJR article didn't talk about was the mothers who live in these war zones every day. The choice to cover the story or to stay somewhere safe with the baby is a privileged one, assuming there is somewhere safe to get to. I am reminded of the mothers and fathers I've met in war zones – in Nicaragua, in Chiapas, and in the West Bank. I think of the mothers living with the bombings every day in Iraq. Loving in the war zone, for many, is a reality, not a choice. Having children is something that happens, in most places, as part of active participation in the world. We protest; we breastfeed; we shout and we sing lullabies; we surround our children with as much love as possible and bring them with us into the world as it is, as part of our creating the world we want.

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