Shari MacDonald Strong

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Brokenhearted Families and the Iraq War

This is an amazing photo essay about the return of soldiers' bodies to their loved ones. The second half, about the widow who is 5-1/2 months pregnant, nearly leveled me. If we're not already convinced, this -- along with the hundreds of thousands of lost Iraqi lives, and the hundreds of thousands of wounded U.S. soldiers and Iraqis -- is why every one of us must do everything we can to end this war at the earliest moment possible.

Story by Jim Sheeler. Photos by Todd Heisler.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sit Down for Change. Stand Up for Peace! Moms (and Non-Moms) Get Fed Up. Part Two.

Truly, truly, this woman is my hero. Looking at all these crosses takes my breath away. It's time for a change. Sadly (though, of course, this is far, FAR from the saddest thing about all this), it looks like there's a limit to how accurate the memorial will be in the future.

(Photo by Karen Gustavson.)

Moms Are Getting Fed Up with the Iraq War -- and Rightly So. Part One.

From Mona Gable's blog post, "Bush: Stop Telling Families with Kids in Iraq "You Understand"! at The Huffington Post:

A few days after 11 American soldiers were killed in Iraq, I opened the mailbox to find along with the Pottery Barn holiday catalogue and other seasonal items a letter from the National Guard. Addressed to my 16-year-old son. I have no idea how they got his name and address. That's not true.

I know perfectly well how they got it. They got it the same way Bush is getting personal information about the rest of us in the guise of fighting "the terrorists." They tapped into some secret database and up popped my son's name. It was right there under the category: Potential Cannon Fodder for Iraq....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New Zen: No Guts, No Glory.

My new column is up at Literary Mama.

Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance My children don't understand that some things just aren't worth fighting over. They don't listen when I say "Let it go" or "It doesn't matter." But just a few days ago, some people were saying the same things to me....

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Call for Submissions: The Maternal Is Political

Mother-writers, please note this call for submissions, for my most recent project:

Call for Submissions: The Maternal Is Political

In the 1960s, “the personal is political” became a defining phrase for the women’s movement. Challenging the idea that a person’s circumstances were her (or his) own to transcend, “the personal is political” highlighted the need for people to address social inequities and injustices through the political process and not just as personal, unrelated problems. This insight sprang from the then-groundbreaking recognition that feelings of exclusion and exploitation are experienced not in a vacuum but within the context of a larger group, and that sources of oppression are both systemic and political and thus must be challenged and changed from within the political realm.

Although exclusion and exploitation remain a very real part of women’s experience today, enthusiasm regarding political involvement as an agent of change in our culture has waned. However, third wave feminism and an emerging mother’s movement offer fresh hope and promise for the future. How are mothers affecting the current political landscape? What are the political and social issues that matter most to moms today? How does the world of politics change when women with children become involved? What are the threads that tie motherhood and politics – and what important work is happening now at the place where the two meet?

Exploring the vital connection between motherhood and social change, The Maternal Is Political will feature 30 moving stories by women who are striving to make the world a better place for children and families: both their own and other women’s, in this country and globally. A volume of literary essays written by and for mothers -- one of the largest and potentially most influential voting blocks in the U.S. -- The Maternal Is Political is crafted to help women visualize and claim the collective political clout of mothers: motivating us to discover, appreciate, and use with greater effectiveness our tremendously powerful (and too often underutilized) political votes and voices. Possible topics include:

• Mothers working for change in the education system in the U.S. (addressing quality of education, segregation between inner-city schools and affluent, white suburban schools)
• A mother teaching her child(ren) about how to love the earth and live in ecologically responsible ways
• Getting out of poverty with kids in tow (what does this woman have to say to the government?)
• Two mothers raising their children together; how are they teaching their children about nationalized homophobia and how their lives will be affected because of it?
• A woman of color’s perspective on raising a child while fighting racism (perhaps a story from New Orleans and the connection between racism and how her children’s lives were changed by Katrina)
• How motherhood changed one mother’s political affiliation or level of involvement
• Involving children in a political campaign
• A mother’s response to her child being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan/becoming active in the anti-war movement
• How one mother helped to trigger or bring about social change in her community
• A mother’s run for political office
• Growing up as the child of a politically involved mother
• Spearheading a mothers’ political movement
• Resistance to pressure to vote as dictated by one’s culture (e.g., conservative religious communities)
• Events leading to solidarity with mothers in war-torn countries
• Mothers’ catalysts for switching political parties
• A mother helping her son to avoid the draft (or a mother planning for a potential future draft)
• A mom voting for the first time (or for the first time in decades)
• Traveling to Cindy Sheehan’s “Camp Casey” (possibly with one’s child)
• Volunteering in a political campaign for the first time
• Dealing with a child’s choice to differentiate from her/his parents politically; facing the fear and anxiety (both the child’s and the mother’s) that come with a child’s political awakening
• How a woman’s family has been affected (positively or adversely) by political role models (Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Laura Bush, etc.)
• A mother’s fight to see specific mother- or family-related legislation passed
• The effect of “the politics of motherhood” on one’s family life
• Challenging the politics of abortion under circumstances that pose significant personal risk
• Choosing for political reasons to live with one’s family in another country (or to return to the U.S. for the same reasons)
• Historical experiences of the intersection between motherhood and war (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, etc.)
• Global experiences with cultures that are more politically/governmentally honoring to mothers
• Mothers raising their children in a counter-cultural fashion, due to political convictions
• Any event that illustrates the collective political power of mothers

Potential contributors: Please note that the editor is seeking stories (with a beginning, middle, and end), as opposed to essays that merely express an opinion. Preference will be given to pieces that show, rather than tell, the story; to those that subtly elicit a response from the reader, rather than preaching; to stories that include action, dialogue, and description: the elements of great fiction.

Shari MacDonald Strong is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her essay "On Wanting a Girl" appeared in the Seal Press anthology It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters (edited by Andrea J. Buchanan). She writes the “Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance” column about motherhood and spirituality for Literary Mama, serves as editor of the creative nonfiction department at Literary Mama, writes an ongoing column for Mamazine, and is the organizer for Mother Talk™ events in Portland, Oregon. Shari worked as an editor and copywriter in the publishing industry for 15 years (most recently as a freelance contractor for a division of Random House), and her writing has appeared in a number of publications including Geez magazine. She recently has appeared as a guest blogger at Leslie Morgan Steiner's "On Balance" blog at as well as at Austin Mama. She is the mother of three children: twin boys born via gestational surrogacy and a daughter adopted from Russia, and is married to photojournalist Craig Strong ( and She blogs at

UPDATE: Please send submissions to maternal.political [at] gmail [dot] com

UPDATE 3/28/07: An updated call for submissions is posted here, with a deadline of June 1, 2007.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mark Driscoll Apologizes; Protest Called Off

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve been planning to attend an action in Seattle this Sunday, protesting pastor Mark Driscoll’s rhetoric about women. The people who were organizing the event had three goals for the protest and stated that if these were met, there would be no need to continue with the protest.

Last night, those goals were met:
1. The city of Seattle has been alerted (via local and national media) to Mark Driscoll’s use of perjorative language in regard to women.
2. The Seattle Times has removed Mark Driscoll as a religion columnist.
3. Mark Driscoll has publicly apologized and has promised to work on his use of inflammatory language and to make an effort to be more gracious in the future (hopefully, no more comparing women to fluffy baby bunnies!). (If you ever read this, Mark Driscoll: thank you very much for that public apology.)

So, the protest is off – and I must say, I’m relieved! I'm also extremely grateful that Mark Driscoll has acknowledged that changes must be made regarding his use of language; I hope those around him hold him to that. The fact that he will no longer be a columnist for The Seattle Times is also a good thing; there are many Christians in Seattle who can write about God’s love for men and women, and once Mark Driscoll demonstrates a lasting change in his language and attitude toward women, perhaps he might pursue that kind of platform again.

There are aspects of his blog post that leave me feeling sad: his portrayal of his critics as a sort of witch hunt (my words, not his), rather than a group of people who are genuinely concerned about the impact of his words on women; a propping up of his position (citing the support of Ted Haggard’s family, his statement that his “theological convictions, even the most controversial ones, are as unwavering as ever”), which seems to indicate that he doesn’t yet understand how his theological position harms women and puts them at risk; the use of manifest destiny-type language that seems to imply that he has a large church because that’s God’s plan for him and because of what he's teaching; the idea that he can't minister in Seattle if Christians are protesting Christians. (It's not a shock to see that Christians disagree with one another -- everyone already knows that, and that's not why many don't like the Christian church. People who don't like the church feel that way because Christians don't hold one another for words and actions.)

Yet, there has been movement in the direction of change, of more careful and respectful language, by Mark Driscoll, as well as acknowledgment that people have been hurt, and for that, I’m thankful. I hope this growth continues, because there's still much at stake. I was struck by the words of a woman named Valerie who posted on the blog portion of the protest site. She wrote about Mark, but these are words all religious and spiritual people should heed:

What I hope, ultimately is that Mark will come to recognize his theology itself as the root of the problem -- To understand that a stance of human certitude cannot serve the Ultimate Essence of Goodness and Truth.

Without a broader transformation, one leading to the deep humility that values doubt, Mark will continue to speak confidently for God, not know how often it is that, in reality, he puts God’s name on human constructions. Our greatest risk in the quest to serve Goodness is that we forge ahead, blind to our blindness, sanctifying our own conclusions and idolizing the teachings of our spiritual ancestors.

We have two powerful protections against this risk. The first is love -- the love that sees the Samaritan not as a potential Jew but as a “neighbor," a human being. The second is doubt, the humility that keeps us constantly aware that we all, from the prophets and apostles to modern day ministers, see the Real through a glass darkly.

Wise words. Here’s to love -- and to doubt in our own certainty. Cheers! And enjoy your protest-free Sunday!