MotherRight

by Elizabeth Cunningham

First to everyone who has been so kindly inquiring, my husband is continuing to do thorough research about his treatment options. My mother-in-law, Olga, is thriving in her lively new home, as much a queen as ever. She has several guardian cats. She regards them with a certain tolerant disdain (and secretly enjoys their attention). What is a goddess to do?

Every now and then a story in the news gets under my skin, and I have to respond directly. I read the story on http://www.truthout.org/1114098. The next day aol had picked it up: w|dl3|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fnews.aol.com%2Fmain%2Fnc%2Farticle%2Falexis-hutchinson-refuses-deployment-to%2F769226 Here’s the gist:

Alexis Hutchinson, an army cook and the single mother of an eleven-month-old son, was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan on November 15th. The plan for her son’s care that she had filed with the army fell through when her mother realized she could not add care of an infant to the load she was already carrying. (Three family members in need of nursing care.) The army first granted, and then revoked an extension that would have allowed Alexis Hutchinson to arrange for alternative care. When Ms. Hutchinson refused to leave her son on the appointed date, he was taken into foster care, and she was arrested and is currently confined on a base in Georgia. She faces potential court martial and a year in jail.

The army’s decision to revoke the extension, place the child in foster care, and arrest the mother appalls me. That Alexis Hutchinson was using her child to avoid deployment in Afghanistan, as military officials have alleged, is the grossest speculation and moreover beside the point. If parents of either gender are willing to risk their lives in the course of military service, the military has an obligation to support them in every way possible in making acceptable arrangements for their children. Forcing a parent to place a child in foster care is unacceptable. The suffering already inflicted on this child and this mother is both cruel and unnecessary. I wrote to Michelle Obama, who has said that she has a particular concern for military families, to ask her not only to look into this case but into military policy regarding parents who must leave children behind when they deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan and other posts where family cannot follow.

The title of this blog is Mother Right, a concept that was part of ancient Celtic law and the laws of some other ancient peoples, I believe. I have been searching for a definition of it among my books, including in Magdalen Rising where Maeve gives a definition. But I haven’t been able to place my finger on it yet, and I am almost out of time today. I will keep looking and include the definition in next week’s blog.

For now, I am going to make something up. Mother right, in today’s winging-it definition, not only has to do with the rights of women to own property, participate in all aspects of the political process, bear arms, have spiritual authority, and sexual autonomy, all of which rights ancient Celtic women exercised and enjoyed. Mother right in today’s definition is law that includes both common sense and compassion. The spirit that gives life instead of the letter than kills (as good lordess deliver us Maeve’s nemesis Paul of Tarsus once said). A law that is unresponsive to individual circumstance soon becomes a form of oppression and abuse.

As to the subject of mothers (and fathers!) in the military and the heartrending choices they make–or have made–that is a subject for another blog. Or novel, like the one I am writing now set during the rebellion of Queen Boudica against the Roman occupation. A hard book to write. More another day.

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2 comments

Meredith Gould November 19, 2009 - 1:57 am

Oh groovy. Can our world get crazier?

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Voluptuous Nicole November 21, 2009 - 11:22 pm

Our world asks Mothers to go against nature everyday, it is appalling. As a homebirth midwife I hear horror stories every day of mother's separated from healthy infants for protocol rather than evidence based reasoning. Infants being refused mother's milk because it is dynamic rather than static nutrition, and even laboring women being brought to court by hospitals while in labor to be forced to have c-sections against their will, yep happens. When will what is normal, natural, and maternal at least cease to be illegal, if it will never be considered "normal"?

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