(HOST) Cindy Sheehan’s protest vigil at Crawford Ranch has reminded commentator Joann* Davis of other activist mothers – whose efforts to bring about change have sometimes been very effective.
(DAVIS) A simple woman from humble Irish roots, my mother never went to college. But when I was a child, she seemed to have many talents. I recall that she could knit an intricate sweater and whip up a tasty beef stew with the same easy touch she used to remove tough stains and deep splinters. “Ask your mother,” dad would say whenever there was a problem. He knew that mom had many skills.
That memory flooded back to me when I saw Cindy Sheehan on the news. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Ms. Sheehan’s story. She’s the military mom whose only son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year and who’s been camping out near the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, hoping to ask the comman- der in chief why America’s sons and daughters were sent to war. The vacationing President has ridden his bike, taken naps, and gone fishing. But meeting Ms. Sheehan is not on the agenda.
I’m not surprised. Ms. Sheehan is a mother and therefore a lurking variable. Like a genie in a bottle who creates panic when let out, she will do what needs to be done to serve her master. Living in a tent in the baking heat of central Texas is small dues for a mother who suspects that her 24-year-old son died in vain. Viewed from a political perspective, Ms. Sheehan may look more potent than anything in the Pentagon’s arsenal – and arguably more subversive than conventional enemies – which raises some interesting questions.
Imagine, for an instance, what a different world it would be if every mother recognized and used her power. After all, it is mothers, not politicians or government agencies packaging propaganda films about freedom and democracy, who shape hearts and minds.
Since the beginning of time, mothers have whispered in their children’s ears. It is mothers who have reminded their children to play fair. Avoid bullies. And not fight. We mothers have our children’s attention at bedtime, when the night is still and the lights are out and our voices alone carry.
The Belfast Mothers of Northern Ireland knew this when they stood together in 1976 and said, “Enough” to the violence that had turned their streets into bloody canals.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving knew this when they banded together to prevent fatalities caused by the lethal mix of automo- biles and alcohol.
More recently, a Nigerian woman, named Marie Fatayi-Williams, knew this when her son Anthony died in a London bombing. Ms. Fatayi-Williams did not say “Bring em on,” or suggest that bombs dropped from the air are better than bombs strapped around the waist. She did not argue that terrorism is a war that we can win. Or suggest that the “virgins are calling.” Instead, Ms Fatay- Williams said that “it’s time to stop this vicious cycle of killing” and “all stand together, for our common humanity.”
As mothers we have the first word.Unfortunately, like Cindy Sheehan and others, we sometimes have the last.
This is Joann Davis of Dorset.
Joann Davis is a writer and former book editor. She spoke from our studio at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester.