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Columnist Fanny Rothschild: Urgency for mothers to live ‘out front’

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When do we stop sitting in our homes or offices, activate our protector natures, and take to the streets?

When I lived in Argentina for six months in 1996, I volunteered with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers who had begun to march 20 years before in the central government square. They marched, at great personal risk, to demand answers from the generals in power as to the whereabouts of their children who were disappearing by the thousands at the hands of the military dictatorship.

These women had never protested publicly prior to 1976. Knowing their daughters and sons were being imprisoned, tortured, and murdered politicized them and turned them into fierce protectors who still in 2017 march in the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday, having broadened their focus to other social injustices.

Upon returning home, I joined the Amherst chapter of Amnesty International to work toward freeing political prisoners globally and advocating for issues such as prison reform in this country. The presidential election awakened my urges to protect my neighbors and so I have embraced other local groups and actions as well.

In doing so, I realize that I have come full circle and am a “mother” once more, as a volunteer for Mothers Out Front Pioneer Valley. This group teaches me that we are all “mothers,” that motherhood is not only about actually having a child. It is also about the creating, birthing, and nourishing that we all do — regardless of gender — of ideas and plans that we conceive for all children locally and throughout the world.

I am moved by our group’s fostering of environmental policies that push Massachusetts legislators to transition swiftly to renewable energy. We have plans to address new building projects being proposed right here in Amherst, to insist that methane-leaking gas lines in Northampton and Springfield be fixed, to protest the proposed gas pipeline that would cut through Otis State Forest, and to educate and empower children about what they can do to help create a healthier world for all. And so much more.

I have also joined up with Climate Action Now and Sanctuary in the Streets run by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, each fueled by “motherhood,” so to speak. I see remarkable orchestration, communication, guiding, mentoring, imparting, and balancing within all three groups, so much like the rhythms and multitasking which we as mothers have fostered in our homes.

For example, a meeting leader bouncing up and down to calm her baby in a snuggly is not an uncommon sight in these democratic and flexible circles in which we can share, take risks, and choose paths that surprise even ourselves.

I often feel like the spirit of Mother Nature is guiding our fight against assaults on our environment and for what is renewable, for what will allow our future generations to live long and healthy lives, for ending policies that create climate refugees, for what is tied to a love of the land.

At a concert that I helped to organize at which local treasure John Sheldon shared original compositions inspired by his visit to Standing Rock, I heard him sing out, “We live under the same sun/We drink the same water.” Also, Inupiaq-Athabaskan water protector Rhonda Anderson spoke as in a prayer about how we are warriors, fighting to save the land that is part of our being.

This concert reminded me that we are all protectors: when we work vigilantly in the present, we remember the past in the same way as do the Mothers in Argentina and we plan for the future in ensuring a livable environment as do the Mothers in the Pioneer Valley. We go out onto the streets, as in the April 29 People’s Climate March, because the threats being unleashed against the environment will cause harm — more slowly than the killings of the former Argentine military government, perhaps, but just as deadly.

This sense of urgency to protect all children means that we have no choice but to live part of our lives “out front” right now, on this Mother’s Day and every day.

Fanny Rothschild is a writer, editor and Reiki practitioner who lives in Amherst.