Below is a heart-wrenching version by “The Corries”
The first time it was fathers, the last time it was sons
And in between your husbands, marched away with guns & drums
And you never thought to question, you just went on with your lives
‘Cause all they’d taught you who to be was mothers, daughters, wives
Susanna, Duchess of Peace, tells more about today’s choice:
It has been somewhat surreal seeing Duchess Catherine (aka Kate Middleton) go on her first, royal tour. I have worked with public advocacy campaigns and outreach for various organizations, so I do understand the difficulty of getting a person who is otherwise intelligent and capable, to also have the skill of making a good speech in public. It does take rehearsal.
Though, it was so odd to have a whole, international tour, where Duchess Catherine did not say one thing on the record. All she was allowed to communicate with was her smile and her wardrobe. The world watched a strident prince go forth with proclamations, while his quiet wife enacted a kind of royal pantomime.
And, again, I try to separate the surface of what seems like pure sexism and injustice, and realize the fact that the Queen — the person currently at the top of this thing called the monarchy — is a woman who is very much in charge. And, also, that Duchess Catherine is the new person in the family, learning what it means to be part person and part symbol.
Still, it is strange to watch people perform such traditional roles, and carry out their public personas, inside cultural expectations for men and women. I wonder if Duchess Catherine was jealous of the fact that Prince William only had to have a couple of blue suits and a pair of jeans? I wonder if Duchess Catherine had any speeches she would have liked to give?
Watching Duchess Catherine also caused me to reflect on the developments in the life and in the public persona of her mother-in-law, Princess Diana. It was so interesting how the world watched Princess Diana begin as a shy, modest, almost school-girl, young woman. And, by the end of her life, she was working on issues such as banning land mines, and she had met with and celebrated the charity work of Mother Theresa. So, maybe there is hope for Duchess Catherine to find her wings, and her voice, and make a difference in the world.
Back to the song…
It is so sad that the system and the bigger culture keep some people trapped in the most simple thoughts of their own comfort, wealth-building, and family nurturing, instead of opening people up to how they also connect with the wider world, and can help the wider world.
It breaks my heart to think about mothers whose sons go to war. There must be so many different reasons why mothers allow or encourage their sons to go to war. Some might be: A mother who does not want to interfere with the choices of a young adult. A mother who does not believe strongly enough in her own wisdom against war. A mother whose family is in economic crisis. Or, a mother who is also fooled by glamorous images of war.
I wish that the English Monarchy could totally separate itself from the military. It seems to me that there are other systems and values inside Great Britain that a royal family could nurture and celebrate. Or, maybe one or two of the royals could suddenly wake up, realize that war is bad, and start their own royal tour for peace?
Until that happens, The Duke and Duchess of Peace will have to do our own touring and celebrating. And, we hope to reflect on the good and bad (and simply interesting) influences that result from the doings of other royal families and celebrities.
This song can be heard on HARP – A Time to Sing! by Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert & Pete Seeger: