Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mama's Day

Greetings to all readers who found the blog through my op/ed in the Times Argus. (Should run in the days just before Mother's Day.) Here is the piece for those who missed it. Readers can find my other work by looking for posting signature at bottom of pieces. - Linda Pruitt

“Arise then...women of this day!… Say firmly: We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with 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, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
Julia Ward Howe

Mother’s Day began not as a tender celebration of woman’s domestic devotion but as a powerful demonstration of the impact of collective action. Julia Ward Howe’s “Mother’s Day Proclamation” of 1870 is a chilling reminder of how far we have not come.

For thirty years Americans marked June 2 as a “Mother’s Day of Peace”. In a total redefinition of the day’s intent, Congress in 1913, assigned the new “Mother’s Day” to the second Sunday in May stripping it of its renegade roots and offering the consumer chaos we know today. The corporatization of a mother’s day of unity was particularly welcomed by the burgeoning floral industry. The Floral Review, a trade publication jubilantly announced that this was a holiday “to be exploited”. They did a neat job of it. Nearly a century later forgetting flowers (waxy chocolates/ill-fitting garments/overpriced meals) is unthinkable.

We must move past the clich├ęd expressions of gratitude. We should regard Mother’s Day 2006 as a reminder to mamas and grandmamas to reclaim their political/social power through action. Julia Ward Howe understood that all of the mothers of the world are inextricably bound through their children. She asserted that mothers world wide could and must unite to invoke real change. Today international humanitarian organizations such as MADRE weave webs beyond borders for positive social reforms from mama to mama to mama.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals are an ambitious unprecedented aid project with the potential to improve the lives of millions of mamas and their families across the globe. All of the 191 UN member nations have pledged to pursue meet these goals by 2015. The goals are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, promote gender equality and empower women, ensure environmental sustainability, develop a global partnership for development.

Before you dismiss such an enormous endeavor as impossibility bogged down in bureaucracy, heed Secretary General Kofi Annan’s warning that “we must break with business as usual” to meet these goals. One of the strengths of this effort is in its call to every small grassroots group and every individual citizen to become personally involved in ensuring success. On the MDG web pages there are many ideas for taking action at a local/individual level. Meeting just one of these goals in the U.S would mean profound social change. Imagine them all being met. How many mamas would it take?

This Mother’s Day pitch the useless knick-knacks and give mama a membership to Code Pink, Women’ International League for Peace and Freedom, or MADRE. Lose the tennis bracelet and make monthly contributions in mama’s name to local food banks and charities. Instead of one day of nominal recognition acknowledge and respect the contributions of mothers every day.

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