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Banishing war on Mother’s day, every day

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Lucine Kasbarian
author, writer, illustrator

What do mothers and entire societies undergo when their offspring fight in wars?

Social justice activist-journalist Susan Galleymore had the experience thrust upon her when she became a reluctant “military mother,” and made it her business to go forth, find out and publish her findings.

Her book, Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War & Terror is the ambitious, stunning result.

When Galleymore’s son was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003, she awoke from nightmares nearly every night. This scenario could describe any mother whose child is embroiled in armed conflict, and struggles with the possibility that she may never see that child again, or that the child will likely return as “damaged goods,” physically and/or psychologically.

In 2004, Galleymore joined Code Pink, a women’s delegation to Baghdad to visit her son who was by then deployed to Iraq.

Between 2004 and 2008, she interviewed ordinary people she encountered – including mothers in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Afghanistan – where war and terror have become a way of life.

Back in the US Galleymore went on to interview military mothers, war veterans and soldiers on active duty, as well as those gone AWOL or who were stop-lossed (commanded to involuntarily extend their tour of duty), wounded, and/or discharged.

While the mothers she interviewed expressed views that span the political spectrum, each described how she viewed her child’s involvement in war, and how it impacted family, community and country.

By also interviewing men engaged in armed struggle in their native lands as well as soldiers speaking about disturbing facts on the ground in the countries in which they had been deployed, Galleymore adds layers of meaning to this unique book.

By further relaying her own personal experiences, observations and ruminations along the way, the author manages to write the equivalent of many books in one volume.

Long Time Passing touches on a variety of interconnected, fundamental issues that are missing from national and global discourses, whether through media, mainstream cultural sources or inter-communal dialogue.

What sets the author apart as particularly suited to write such a book are her natural gifts as an empath, a “seeker,” and one whose life choices are/have been made on moral grounds.

An idealistic Galleymore worked on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1970s, where the racism and apartheid she encountered reminded her of the years growing up in South Africa.

A progressive activist and radio interviewer in adulthood, Galleymore more recently adopted the role of military counselor on the G.I. Rights Hotline and became the founder of MotherSpeak, which fosters cultural and environmental awareness through talent- and story-sharing.

While Long Time Passing provides an insider’s view into the tremulous circumstances of occupation, what emerges is that maternal and human suffering – both deeply personal and extraordinarily universal – highlight the private tragedies behind the public spectacle of war.

Galleymore’s profiles illustrate that the average mother or family precariously surviving under occupation is more informed, civilized, humane and nuanced in perspective than the Western media routinely give them credit for, all while those occupied struggle, under unnatural circumstances, to live freely, safely and in charge of their own destinies.

By contrast, the reader can’t help but notice, through the trials of Galleymore and her interviewees, how the military industrial complex and the culture it engenders emerge as zealous, xenophobic, arrogant, irrational, intolerant, and even ignorant, unstable and incompetent. Much the same as how occupied peoples are painted.

Long Time Passing is a tribute to mothers everywhere who, through the interviewees, honor our common humanity by sharing their stories of courage, despair, questioning, anger and resilience.

However, it would not do to simply say that the book is about the tribulations of military mothers. It is an absorbing, discriminating and enraging look at the devastating impact of war, world affairs, the history of lands under occupation, and what is being done in the name of freedom and democracy.

A complete reading of Long Time Passing leaves no doubt with this reader that the culture of war seeps into and undermines every aspect of our lives:  physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, moral, racial, familial, cultural, social and sexual.

The book will also be eye opening for anyone who has not traveled beyond “First World” nations to see the ravages of war, poverty and disenfranchisement.

That reader – who enjoys gainful civilian employment, an intact family, creature comforts, disposable income and extended leisure time – will no doubt develop a greater appreciation for a lifestyle they may previously have taken for granted.

Long Time Passing (taken from Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, one of the first songs to protest the Vietnam War) acts as a reminder that war and the military are inimical to mothering.

Frequent readings will also urgently remind us that our common humanity, our obligations to one another and this earth, and our collective efforts to shine a light on truth, equality and global justice can—and will—make a difference. 

To purchase the book (published by Pluto press for US$20) go to MotherSpeak.

  1. Therese says:

    Thank you, Ms. Galleymore, for giving voice to these marginalized mothers and others!

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