I spent Mother’s Day thinking about my own wonderful, hard-working mother. But I also thought about another woman who mothered me through some tumultuous teen years. She is the mother of one of my best friends. I thought about her because she is from Afghanistan, where just over a month ago, the United States dropped the “Mother of All Bombs.”
I hesitated to write about this for Mother’s Day, because, as peace activist Dr. Hakim says, the “Mother of All Bombs” is such an insult to mothers. Mothers are bearers of life, and bombs bear out only death and destruction. We blaspheme against Love when we refer to a bomb as a “mother.” Yet, on Mother’s Day, I wanted to remember what our nation has done to the motherland of my “other mother,” and remember all who are suffering our ongoing airstrikes and weapons proliferation and destruction of land and homes and families and lives worldwide.
The Mother of All Bombs
It’s been almost a month, and I’ve barely heard a word about this Monstrosity of a Bomb since Democracy Now!’s excellent coverage. The US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in our arsenal, and it was just a blip on our radar. The way the story was presented conjured images of remote caves and tunnels. But the bomb was dropped in the Achin province on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a populated area where there are refugees and internally-displaced people who have suffered decades of war. The official claim is that this area was evacuated before the bomb was dropped, but I am more than skeptical that everyone was able to move out. The bomb was designed to explode in the air, rather than on impact, in order to have a wider reach and terrorize people far beyond the 1-mile blast radius.
Our government will not assess the damage. We will never know who died. We will never know if homeless families took shelter in these tunnels that we destroyed. We will never know of the homes destroyed that fleeing people might have hoped to return to. We will never know the true damage. The United States dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb and forgot about it.
And some people – good, loving people – see no reason to be upset, assuming we only killed ISIS. Although there were reports of a father and a young son killed some distance from the blast, let’s assume that everyone else killed was a member of ISIS. A bomb managed to obliterate some people who had probably been surrounded by violence and war their whole lives. I don’t know who they were, but they were probably angry and desperate. They may have lost family members – parents, siblings, young children. They may have lost all hope of employment except through ISIS. It’s possible that they bought into an ideology of hatred after experiencing little else. It’s possible they felt they had to do what they needed to do to help their families survive. Whatever the reasons, they joined a militant group and are now dead.
Seeing Our Enemies Through A Mother’s Eyes
On Mother’s Day, I tried to imagine even members of ISIS through the eyes of their mothers. I imagined those we consider enemies coming into the world vulnerable and helpless and innocent, completely dependent on others. We remain dependent on others throughout our lives as we learn and grow, because we are constantly being formed in relationship. When we are deprived of what we need – not only in material goods, but also in love and affection and stability – we may learn hatred or cruelty to survive.
I don’t know what members of ISIS went through to be persuaded or compelled to join. I do know that they began their lives the same way we all do. I imagine that those who grew up in war-torn lands lacked stability and probably saw great suffering. I know that all human beings need love to thrive, and that those who grow up to disregard and even take the lives of their fellow human beings need more love, not less. I know this is just as true for the members of our own military who target not only soldiers but also rescuers and mourners at funerals as it is for ISIS soldiers. As human beings, we are all designed for relationship with each other, and when we kill each other, we not only lose the sense of connection that should bind us into one human family; we damage our own souls as well.
Birthing Cycles of Violence and Killing Mother Earth
And we keep the cycle of violence churning on. ISIS will use our indiscriminate violence to persuade more followers to take indiscriminate acts of violence out upon us. For every person we kill, whether ISIS member or not, we recruit others who want us dead. We also foster a merciless environment that feeds an us-verses-them mentality there as well as here. This may be why the Taliban (not ISIS, but still a political force with a militant interpretation of Islam and a violent ideology) controls more territory in Afghanistan than it did when the U.S. occupation began in 2001.
But beyond the people directly killed in the blast, this bomb has injured our fragile, long-suffering Mother Earth. It has further poisoned air and water polluted by decades of war. How many more will die of disease or famine because of violence we have committed against not only people, but the land they depend upon? We have taken a beautiful country and pockmarked it with bomb blasts.
My Afghan-American Mother
I don’t think most people in the United States think of Afghanistan as a beautiful country, but as a backward, violent land that oppresses women. But I cannot think of Afghanistan without thinking of the mother of my dear friend and her three sisters. Beautiful, brilliant and empathetic, she treated me like her own daughter. Her mother, another grandmother to me, fed me with affection and some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. They laughed and joked with me, mentored and comforted me. They showed me the beauty of Islam as their faith permeated every aspect of their lives.
I know Afghanistan, like anywhere else, can nurture values of compassion and hospitality because I have seen those values lived out in people who spent much of their lives there. And while Afghanistan is especially dear to my heart, every nation where we wage war has the same human capacity for love, though we foster cultures of mercilessness in the wake of our destruction.
The Spirit of Mother’s Day
So I thought about Afghanistan on Mother’s Day. I thought also about Syria, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Vietnam, and all of the places where our wars and weapons have killed other mothers’ children. Because Mother’s Day is about more than our immediate families; it’s about the life-giving bonds of care and compassion that transcend blood-ties. It’s about recognizing that behind the politics of war are suffering human beings who need and are capable of love. It’s about emptying our arms of their weapons so that we may embrace each other as members of the human family. It’s about applying the lessons of kindness and cooperation that we teach our children to the whole world.
The words from Julia Ward Howe’s first Mother’s Day Proclamation from nearly 150 years ago ever echo in my mind: “ 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 women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” That cry now transcends biological motherhood and even gender. We are all called to nurture the whole world with the same love that we wish for every child – not blind to faults but guided by faith in humanity’s infinite capacity for goodness as living reflections of Love.
The spirit of Mother’s Day is motherly love for the whole world. Let us honor it by retiring – not only the phrase “Mother of All Bombs” – but all of our weaponry forever. Together let us raise a new world.
Image: Background: Screenshot from Youtube: “U.S. Drops Its Biggest Non-Nuclear Bomb on Afghans, Already Traumatized by Decades of War” by Democracy Now! ; Foreground: Mother Silhouette With Baby via 123rf.com.
Change your view; change the world! Subscribe to the Raven ReView and never miss an article! New subscribers receive the free e-book, Dodging the Parenting Trap by Rev. Adam Ericksen and the MP3 “Before I Take A Stand” by singer-songwriter and Raven Board Member Michael McLean.