It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was sprawled on the couch with a Diet Coke, watching Lleyton Hewitt beat the pants off Pete Sampras at the U.S. Open. (You may accurately surmise from this scene that I did not yet have children.) After the match, I considered a catnap but decided to make an appearance at an old friend’s birthday party.
When I arrived, the party was mostly over, but we drank red wine in fancy glasses and laughed like teenage girls. I updated my friend on my efforts to find a surrogate to carry the baby my husband and I hoped to conceive via in vitro technology. Raising her glass, she announced gallantly: “I’LL carry the baby for you!” I informed her that she was drunk. She insisted that she wasn’t, not much, and we agreed to meet in a few days to discuss the possibility.
Two mornings later, I sat hunched in front of our TV and watched the World Trade Center crumble into dust.
Later that week, my friend offered again to carry our baby, which in time turned out to be babies: not one, but two warm bundles of milky sweetness and joy. But the day the towers fell, I couldn’t imagine meeting to plan something so hopeful. It seemed indecent to anticipate new life when so many old lives, familiar lives, damn great lives had just ended, poof, like that. It wasn’t fair that I might get to love someone new, when so many were left holding a love for someone who was suddenly gone.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about those first terrible days. Our boys were born 13 months after 9/11; we adopted our daughter from Russia in 2003. I haven’t felt terrorism’s breath our necks once in the intervening years, yet I never forget that the world changed radically just before our children came into our lives. As a child, I thought of “terror” as something foreign, something “over there.” Now I worry that “over there” will come “over here,” that religion-infused foreign policy is — far from helping — bringing terrorism, step by step, closer to my children’s door.
My parents obsessed about the dangers of hitchhiking and parties with LSD-laced potato chips. I wrestle with anxiety over bombs on planes, anthrax attacks and bioterrorism, war and suicide attacks, threats to women and children and beautiful young men and families — here and “over there.” I worry that the “War on Terror” will draft my gentle, sensitive boys into killing other gentle, sensitive boys (and, yes, other not-so-gentle boys), boys with souls and hopes, boys who would fear my sons as much as we fear them.
I worry about Muslim extremists, but of course they aren’t the only zealots who pose a threat. In our “Christian nation” religious leaders like Pat Robertson blame terrorism on homosexuals, liberals, and feminists; speechwriters interweave political rhetoric with verses plucked out of context from religious texts; and senators supported by the religious right vote overwhelmingly for war. Is Christianity a violent religion? Has our “Christian nation” made it one? What does this question mean both to those of us who wear the Christian label and those who have it thrust upon us by virtue of where we live?
If we as a group – mothers and women – don’t find a way to turn the tide, for ourselves and for our children, who will? What if the women of this “Christian nation” stood up and said, “You’re not going to use my God as an excuse, or my child as a tool, to wage war”? What then?
In God Laughs and Plays, David James Duncan points out that fundamentalist Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Jews each think they have the One True Book, and each faith is now backed by nuclear weapons. I can’t change the fact that we live in a world where religious fundamentalism and nuclear weapons not only coexist but, like cranky stepsiblings, are forced to share a bedroom. I can, however, like “Mama Teresa,” do small things with great love. I can (and have) put a sign in my yard that says, “War Is Not the Answer” (or, as my children say it, “No Killing with Guns!”). I can challenge words that are unkind and hurtful — even those spoken by people I love. When my children bicker, I can resist the urge to yell and punish; I can drop what I’m doing, get down on my knees, and show them how using words can help bring about a kind of peace.
It’s not enough, and it is everything. It’s a beginning.
7 replies on “Mothers Revolution”
This column made my heart constrict. When you have children you feel so keenly how much you want to keep them safe, and to stop senseless violence. It makes me think of the wisdom in the last chapter of “Siblings Without Rivalry,” when the authors consider how so many international disputes seem to mirror the fights our children have at home, and that we have to start by helping our children deal with their negative emotions and their desire to murder each other.
Wow, Shari. You did it once again. Made me laugh, cry, and think … and caused goosebumps to cover the surface of my skin. Oh how I wish we could broadcast these thoughts all over the world!
What I really like about this piece is knowing what you were doing just *before* 9/11. I remember what I was doing then, too, and it just puts so much into context to think of life this way. Nice work…
Thank you, Shari, for your challenge to mothers to rise up and collectively call for peace. If mothers had confidence and decided to stand together on something like this, I dare any institution–church or otherwise–to try to stop them! But we haven’t decided yet to make our voices heard, so peace is not around the corner anytime soon. I appreciate your eloquent and heartfelt rally cry. I hope women of faith in particular will respond.
Great piece, Shari!
There are moments when I think I’m a little over-the-top with my chronic “in our family we work it out with words” mantra. My children (my son especially) fight, raise hands to each other & at times can get unbearably aggressive with one another. Your writing reminds me that it’s worth the time and effort to get down with them and SHOW THEM BY EXAMPLE that we have the choice to respond to one another in a way that is peaceful. Thank you!
Beautiful piece Shari. As you probably know, Mother Theresa also would not attend anti-war rallies. Only pro-peace.
I had one child and seriously thought twice about having a second child after 9/11? What kind of a world would I be bringing it into? We did have a second child and I’m glad we did.
The Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of all that we have thought.” When enough of us want peace,think peace, visualize peace, and become peace, there will be peace.