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Lives and souls

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It was Mother's Day, 2000. We'd come on different paths, but with the same goal. At the Million Mom March, Anna Quindlen noted the irony of parents spending time and effort childproofing their homes and then ignoring the hazards of handguns. Susan Sarandon talked about the link between guns, police brutality, poverty and racism. And speaker after speaker recounted how guns had taken the lives of their daughters, sons, sisters, brothers.

Like all mothers, I worry about my children's safety. And like other members of the Million Mom March, I worry specifically about the easy accessibility of guns in our country. I have lost friends and family to gun violence, as have many other Million Mom supporters. Grief, fear and anger are the passions that make the Million Mom movement powerful. Although the march is a modern organization, it follows a long tradition of women's activism. The tactics blend modern technology (e-mail and media lobbying campaigns) and community organizing, with the ancient call to woman in her role as Mother/Protector.

Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Million Mom March is a grassroots movement that addresses a public health problem by harnessing the media and the moral indignation of mothers. Both organizations face a powerful (read: rich and politically influential) industry lobby. Ultimately MADD was successful in strengthening drunken driving laws. Hopefully, the Million Mom March will be as successful in curbing easy access to guns.

Long before MADD there was the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Established in 1873, the union sought to close down saloons where men squandered their wages on alcohol, and to end instances of wife and child abuse that were often alcohol-related. By today's standards, and in light of Prohibition's unintended side effects, the WCTU may look misguided and puritanical. But the movement was a logical response to the serious problems caused by alcohol consumption in the 19th century.

The political beliefs of temperance advocates were diverse. Some movement leaders were radicals who also fought against slavery and for women's suffrage. Others simply feared for the lives and souls of their children and husbands.

The members of the Million Mom March are no less varied. Some see gun violence as a symptom of a broader problem--a manifestation of the fact that moneyed interests are held dearer than human life. For others, working with the march augments the less political work of PTA meetings, organizing book fairs and making sure their kids get the moral grounding of their family's religion. They fight guns out of a visceral concern for their family's well being.

At North Carolina's Million Mom March this weekend, I will invoke my own canon of famous foremothers including my own mother, who has fought for justice and equality for as long as I can remember, and who lost a husband to gun violence.

There are some who believe that the Million Mom March is not radical enough. But if we can't keep young people alive and free from the psychological damage done by our violent culture, who will be left to fight for peace, equality and freedom tomorrow?

Information on Saturday's march in Raleigh is available online at www.ncmillion

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