07. September 2004 · Comments Off on Don’t Mess With the Mommy · Categories: General, War

When I was in junior high, one of my girlfriends who admittedly was a bit of a drama queen claimed with great fervor to be such a devotee of non-violence that she would not use violence of any sort to defend her children. Since we were approximately fifteen and virgin, the existence of children for both of us was at best theoretical. I did suspect her of total bullshit at the time, and knew it with certainty ten years later, when I against all expectation, had a child of my own.

I had the experience of holding my baby daughter…my…own…baby… daughter… and immediately and violently falling into a sort of love— completely different from the way one falls in love with one’s intended, a deep and primal emotion. For your child, you will unhesitatingly put yourself between any danger around, and that child. To defend the safety of that child you will pick up any weapon available, and use it. To keep my child safe, I knew without the slightest doubt, that I would kill— anyone, and with anything at hand, no matter how up close and personal, with bare hands and slowly, if the threat to my daughter (my daughter!) were imminent. And afterwards, I would sleep like a babe myself, without a shred of regret, no bad dreams, even if I were left covered in the innards and gore of whoever had dared… dared… to attempt violence on my child. Actually, the depth of this conviction, the absolute certainty, that any threat to my daughter could only be carried out over my dead body, came as a bit of a shock to me… so very primal, so very basic… like an animal, ferocious in intensity.

This is where, I think, our human tendency to see children as an especially protected category first arose… not of any particular human bent towards chivalry, just well-established wisdom. It must have come clear to our most remote ancestors that a threat to a child resulted all to frequently in the mother of that child ripping out the heart of whatever posed that threat with her bare hands, and if possible, eating it in the marketplace. “Don’t mess with the mommy” is the guiding rule of wildlife biologists doing field research, especially amongst those who deal with the larger mammals.

But the corollary to that deep and unhesitating maternal devotion is the knowledge that anyone could use that against you, could force you into something, no matter how vile or degrading by the simple expedient of putting a gun or worse to your child’s head…. And so the experiences of parents last week in Russia became our most horrible nightmare, played out on the TV screen and in the front pages. A thousand people, most of them children, children like ours… on their first day of school… schools much like ours, on the first day of a school year, with anxiously hovering parents seeing them into the playground on this most important first day, parents who brought along the little brothers and sisters. Who of us with children has not lingered by the gate, seeing that small and dearly beloved individual, weighted down with a book bag and their own apprehensions, march sturdily up the stairs and into the main entrance?

The heartbreaking pictures, pictures of tiny still forms on stretchers and in coffins, or carried away naked and bloody, those pictures awake our most primal nightmares— they are bad enough, but reading the accounts of the horror— children of all ages, tormented in front of their parents, in front of their mothers with heat, and thirst and hunger— terrorized by masked men with guns and explosives, who murdered without remorse, in their very faces, forced by necessity to drink their own urine, and to eat the bouquets of flowers, petal by petal and leaf by leaf. That last, if anything indicated the true intention of the terrorists was to create a spectacle of death, as soon as enough cameras were pointing that way, a veritable auto de fe of horror and blood. I am only amazed that the hostages didn’t crack sooner than two days, driven mad with fear for their children and ready to gamble a chance of escape against a certainty of death.

These two small items in the Beslan news hold a small warning indicator to anyone who think to extort concessions by holding children as hostages; there are some reports that many of the Russian security forces were accidentally shot in the back, by armed parents following them into the besieged school, intent on rescuing their own…. And that one of the Chechen terrorists was torn apart by an angry mob, outside the school, afterwards.

Don’t mess with the mommy. You may not like what happens, then.

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