A Mother: A Leader
Debra Coe (c) all rights reserved
The most interesting college class I have taken was "An Economic History of the United States." When I registered for the class I expected to study major economic decisions made by the government and how these affected the general economy. I was very surprised when our instructor, Dr. Pope, spent the semester emphasizing that the main influence on the economy was not government, but individual homes and the collective decisions made there. He explained that, especially in the United States, government can do a lot to try to influence individual decisions -- but they do still remain individual decisions. It is our individual decisions of seemingly small things such as whether to save money or spend it, and our power to vote, that cause individual decisions and attitudes to be those that shape our history.
We spent the semester researching the diaries and lives of individual people and tracing how their individual life styles and decisions changed America. I learned history is mainly lived and experienced by those forgotten and unknown. But because history is written mainly about those who left written records or did something spectacular that someone else wrote about, we often get a distorted view of who or what is important in affecting change in our world. For example, most history books site changes in government and laws as those things that changed history. Therefore when we want changes to take place in our country today we seem to look to government to change the laws and thus change the people. But what we seem not to understand is that lasting changes in the U.S. government and laws are the ones in which the change began first in the people. These governmental changes are reflections of what the people already felt and wanted.
Prohibition was a good example of this principle. The government did make the law, but to many of the people's attitudes and individual habits did not support it. The end result was that the 18th Amendment was repealed less than 15 years later. It has remained the only amendment to the Constitution to be repealed.
Another example was the American Revolution versus the French Revolution. In the American Revolution, the attitudes and thoughts of the people began to change before the first pilgrims even left Europe. They did not like government as it was. These ideas began with individual people and their own thinking. England tried to change this thinking by force, but all that government regulation with its strict enforcement, jailing people, etc. did not change the ideas of the individuals. Their ideas were passed on to their children and grandchildren. Generations were taught to have a strong hope for a new and better way of living and a more correct role of government power. These descendents worked toward their ideals and had faith that one day they would be able to have a the freedom they sought.
As these Europeans left their native continent and came to American, their new ideas of government and freedom came with them. In a new land, where the people were out of easy control of their governments, these early settlers experienced a freedom and ability to govern and control themselves that no other Europeans had experienced for centuries. With these freedoms came even more major changes in their ideas of the proper role of government and the importance of man taking responsibility for himself rather government making his choices for him. The end result was a successful revolution that set an example of government and ideals for the entire world. Many of our modern inventions that have improved our lives so much today are a direct result of the freedom created by these new ideas more than two centuries ago. One need only visit one of the former Eastern Block countries to see just how much progress has come to us because of our freedom.
By contrast, the French in the early 1800's also had great desires for change in their government. The American Revolution influenced their own willingness to revolt and demand changes. However, there was one major difference, the French did not have the same deep religious convictions nor had they experienced living under a free way of life. The necessary ideas, convictions, and deep understanding of how to achieve what they wanted were not there. The result was The Reign of Terror, and Napoleon coming to power. These people still expected government to make sure they were happy.
As with government, so it is with our entire history. To me, history books tell but a very small part of the story. It is important to realize that although women have always made up at least half of the human race and certainly no one would argue that human life could not have gone on without them, you would never know it by our history books. While women are surely the greatest casualty of traditionally written history, this certainly does not mean that we have not been some of the greatest (though silent) leaders in the changes that have taken place. If we were study the lives and teachings of mothers throughout history, we might find that history very much follows the teachings and thoughts of the majority of the mothers at the time.
Although we cannot easily go back and study the thoughts and teachings of mothers I sincerely believe my theory is correct because when one studies the affects of literature for example (and literature is people's ideas and thoughts written down) certainly you find that literature does change history because it does change thoughts and perspectives and thus the teachings of a people. If one follows the literature of the United States, the attitudes and habits of the people lag about 20 years behind their what is in their literature.
I firmly believe that the world is greatly shaped by mothers. We are the leaders that provide so many building blocks of our nation and our future. Even Hitler realized that he needed the mothers of the nation on his side, in order to gain the power he desired. He set up programs and institutions with the sole purpose of changing the thinking of mothers. Just because history books are not usually written about the important leadership roles mothers play, doesn't mean we have any less influence.
One of my favorite books is Horten Hatches an Egg by Dr. Suess. In this story, Mazie the lazy bird does not want to be tied down to her nest, so she convinces Horten the elephant to take her place. Horten, being a faithful elephant, sits on the nest even through very trying times. But then as luck would have it, Mazie that lazy bird appears just as the egg is hatching "the work was all done now and she wanted it back." But as the bird came out of the shell, everyone saw that it was an elephant bird. At this point Dr. Suess says, "And it should be, it should be, it should be like that." In this simple story, what came out of the egg was still a bird, the mother did still have some influence, but it was also very much an elephant. Just as William Ross Wallace said so many years ago, "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World."
For most of history mothers have rocked that cradle. If we wish now to change the direction our world is taking, we need to realize that it will be done mainly through the teaching of today's children. As mothers we can have a great positive influence. One thing that has always puzzled me is how quick modern psychology is to blame emotional problems on parents, yet they look to government policy, instead of mothers to make positive changes.
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