Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 18, 2000
Women in Black witness madness
"Women carry half the world," goes the expression. In reality, their share of the burden is much heavier and much more readily ignored. In a world gone mad, women should have an equal right to be wrong. It is the men however who make all the noise, the mistakes and the mess, and the women are expected to clean up after them.
Women don't control great armies or high finances. Their power is that of example and protest.
In Argentina, the mad women of the Plaza de Maya have quietly walked their rounds in Buenos Aires ever since the military coup led by General Jorge Rafael Videla suspended all civil liberties in March 1976 and set in motion a cycle of kidnapping, torture and murder.
Over 7,000 persons were "disappeared" in Argentina's dirty little war. The junta's management resulted in the liquidation of a third of the country's productive capacity.
Cattle herds were reduced by 10 million. Real wages lost half their purchasing power and the foreign debt climbed to $96 billion - most of it spent on arms.
In 1981, seeking approval of the Reagan administration, the generals agreed to participate in the U.S. intervention in Central America, and then stumbled into the Falkland Island War.
As Argentina teeters on economic bankruptcy caused by one macho disaster after another, the women have taken to the streets, banging their cooking pots and demanding a return to sanity and justice.
In Nicaragua, I met with the mothers of the martyrs who had sacrificed their sons in a struggle for justice against a dictatorial regime propped up by the U.S. Even after their victory in 1979, the population was under constant threat by invading Contras armed with U.S. arms and military advice operating out of Honduras and Costa Rica. Each village, town and city had a committee of mothers of the martyrs who met, prayed and wept about so much human folly.
In 1984, they made a plea for peace at an open air Mass celebrated by the pope. His thundering Silencio rang around the globe.
I also met with the Salvadoran mothers of the disappeared who showed me volumes of collected testimonies and piles of gruesome photographs of mutilated bodies and pictures of missing persons - grim evidence of a long period of violent militarism financed and guided by the U.S. The women wore black as a sign of grief and their heads were covered in white lace kerchiefs as a sign of hope for peace.
Women in Black is a loose international network of women who share a common philosophy of opposition to male militarism.
In 1988, a group of Israeli and Palestinian women banded together to express feminine resistance to war. Their black dress and silent protest converts their bodies into a visible act of conscientious objection.
Since the Sept. 11 attack on New York, women in black gather every Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the steps of the New York Public Library.
"The urge to vengeance must be resisted" they proclaim. "We urgently call on all those with responsibility and authority to step back from war."
As we approach Holy Week, we are reminded of Jesus' words to the women of Jerusalem: "Don't cry for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. The day will come when people will say 'How lucky are the women who never had children, who never nursed a baby.' That is when people will say to the mountains, 'Fall on us' and to the hills, 'Hide us.' For if such things as these are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
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