Dr Karem Roitman who is worried about the world that her sons are growing up in has written the blog post below. Lots of mothers share her concern.
I try to avoid reading the news, but as a lecturer in politics this is really not an option. Only twice, after the birth of each of my sons, have I completely opted out for months at a time. When my hiatus needed to end as my maternity leave evaporated, I once again browsed the BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN… and there were no surprises. The world kept fighting where they had been fighting months before. The scars of colonialism were still unhealed and infected. Poverty ate into hope and peace. And, most importantly, fear sells, so newspapers highlight everything that scares us… the daily victories of knowledge, altruism, kindness do not make good click bait.
As I reflect on the content and theme of Mothers Under Fire: Mothering in Conflict Areas (2015) and read news, I see the headlines add up – suicide bombers, mass shooters (whose name or cause should never be spoken to keep from them the notoriety they most crave) kill and maim in Africa, Europe, America, and tonight in Pakistan… Social media profiles are forever changing background flags as we claim ‘to be’ Paris, and Beirut, Nairobi… But does it make any sense to be an abstract political construct: a nation-state? How will my vague, social change of identity from one flag to the next, claiming momentary membership with a socio-cultural entity that is inherently problematic and filled with inner conflict, alter my motivations, my outlook, and my actions? How will it help me overcome and fight fear?
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Mothering, I think, provides a stronger link to breach the gap between our daily lives and the atrocities that occur far and near us. To mother, to dedicate oneself to learning to love another person(s), means learning to see the person as they are, respecting their uniqueness and needs, and our uniqueness and needs, and overcoming tensions between the two while protecting them and nourishing them as our dependants. Such intentional mothering can open up our eyes to individuals outside our home as the children of other mothers. It softens our hearts and demolishes boundaries of race, class, and nation. Motherhood can heal. Giving mothers the space and support to love and nurture (and this in many instances requires colossal economic, social, and cultural shifts) can heal the sores that manifest in exhausting and numbing violence. So I call for the mothers. I call us to see each other’s children as our own and to teach our children to see each other as the sons and daughters of strong, but often broken and constrained, sisters.
I leave you with a short poem, reflecting on a day I saw two little boys like mine, little children like so many killed tonight in Pakistan.
Of luck and genes
Please mind the gap…
A mother enters with her two boys.
Majestic eyelashes and a mischievous, dimpled smile look up at me from the stroller
The older boy leans into his mother
Dangling arms and legs that still need cuddles
She nestles his head on her shoulder and brushes his stubborn hair back with a gentle touch
He closes his eyes and melts into her warmth
I could be her sister
Dark, long hair, tanned skin, high cheekbones, full lips
Her children are like my two boys at home
But for a twist of genes they will face such different fate
My blondish boys will walk unquestioned.
Light skinned hands will be shaken without concern.
These cherubs will be eyed with suspicion.
The dimpled smiled unseen in the dark skin.
The thick dark curls assumed troubled, dirty, dangerous.
I imagine their mother’s fears at night:
Stroking chubby hands into sleep
Kissing little noses
And holding back tears as she prays for protection
Safety tonight and tomorrow
That her children will be spared
Not assumed terrorists, bandits, thieves…
But seen. That others might still see the smiling eyes, the long eyelashes, the dimple, the dangling arms so ready for gentle embraces