Missing on Mother's Day


     Mother’s Day, like all feel-good family holidays, is often tainted with some degree of tension and disappointment.  At family gatherings, even in the best case scenario where in-laws get along, there’s usually some friction between other relatives.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have one big happy family, usually somebody you love is missing from the festivities. Is your son or daughter away at college, studying for final exams?  Maybe Mom or Grandma is sick or recently passed away.  Or perhaps Mom or Dad is overseas in military service.
     In my case, I only had half my twin-chicks for Mother’s Day.   Max is working in California and couldn’t come home.  So our family celebration was smaller than usual, just Sarah, Henry, me and my mom. On Mother’s Day, Henry brought me roses, Mom and Sarah brought cards, and Max remembered to call.  With brilliant sun and blue skies in New York City, the weather itself was my Mother’s day gift, perfect enough for a Big Apple post card.  Especially heartwarming were all the Facebook pictures my friends were posting: fabulous photos of several generations of mothers, grandmothers and themselves as the adorable kids they once were.

     However, in the midst of all this Mother’s Day appreciation for the feminine, the heartbreaking truth is there are still parts of the world where girls are denied an education and treated like slaves. The recent kidnapping of 276 high school girls in Nigeria is a crime against every female on this planet. The Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group who believe girls should be married and not educated, is responsible for the kidnapping.  Fifty girls managed to escape; but over 200 other high school age girls have been held hostage since mid-April.  Pictured on the front page of The New York Times, these solemn-faced hostages are shown dressed in their brand new, dark, head-to-toe Islamic garb—apparently forced to convert to Islam from their Christian faith.  The Boko Haram wants to trade these children for terrorist prisoners, but–understandably—the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has refused.

     The world has responded with outrage.  First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off a social media campaign by posting a photo of herself holding a #Bring Back Our Girls” sign calling the abductions “unconscionable.” All of our 20 female senators—16  Democrats and 4 Republicans—have united in angry, bipartisan agreement to demand immediate action to bring these girls home to their families and arrest the kidnappers.  In a meeting with Secretary of State of John Kerry, the female senators urged the following:  have the United Nations designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group on its Qaeda sanctions list; provide surveillance assets to find the missing girls; assist the Nigerian government with a team of Special Forces to locate and rescue the girls; and coordinate an international search for the girls.
     Among the girls who escaped, there’s no joy in their tales of survival.  Whether they jumped from crowded, moving trucks, taking them away from their school, or ran away later from the Boko Haram camp, these girls were in deep fear for their lives.  Six of the escaped girls went to Maidaguri this week to watch the Boko Haram video of their captured classmates in order to help the government identify the students in the film.  All six of these “lucky” girls wept.

     What about the mothers (and fathers for that matter) who’ve been weeping over their daughters for a whole MONTH?  Forget about missing a child on Mother’s Day, the families of these kidnapped girls don’t know if their daughters will EVER be rescued.  Although the United States, Britain, France and Israel have offered to assist the Nigerian government, so far there has been no real progress. 

     It seems to me that the more time passes, the less likely it is these children will be found. Like the Malaysian plane that disappeared into the ocean, taking with it the lives and hopes of so many anguished families, there is the frightening possibility that these young girls will vanish into the jungle—never to be seen again.  If they are not found and rescued soon, they will cease to be front page news.  New tragedies and other distressing events will claim the world’s attention.  If these girls weren’t from a desperately poor village in a country swallowed up in economic and political problems, they might hold our attention a little longer.

     But here in the USA—make no mistake—if 276 of our daughters were kidnapped, our fury and focus would be so intense, that our government would not (and could not) rest until our children were restored to us and the kidnappers brought to justice.  And it would NEVER take a month! 

     As a wealthy nation, we can always marshal our considerable resources and power to rescue our babies.  In this case, might really does make (some) things right.

     Perhaps we should all take solace on Mother’s Day knowing we will never suffer the soul shattering loss of a Nigerian mother, though we may miss our kids on an occasional holiday for all the ordinary reasons.

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