A Day Late: A Dollar Short

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I want to talk about capitalism. (Might sound like a non-sequitur, but stay with me). Feeling so full today. Full of love — coming in and going out — filled with hope and gratitude and excitement. And a little sorrow. Missing my mother, even as I was so celebrated by my children yesterday. This cycle of life can be a rough one, can’t it? Babies are born, we become mothers, our mothers are grandmothers… Mother’s Day is a funny holiday for many of us. It certainly was for Anna Jarvis.

Anna Maria Jarvis “invented” Mother’s Day in 1908. She wanted something concrete to honor her mother who had died that year. In fact she wanted to honor all mothers, and even identified the white carnation (why is that flower so often reviled? could this be the answer?) as a perfect symbol for the Day. Well, things soon started going awry as far as Miss Jarvis was concerned. The floral and confectionary industries were banking big bucks on the back of her idea. Two years later Hallmark was born — coincidence?! Jarvis had had it:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”[21][22]

Jarvis had lost control of this idea, she was no longer at the steering wheel of her original idea of mom-commemoration. So she worked to rescind it! How cool is that? She was like, if you’re going to take my idea and commercialize it into something no longer recognizable as mine, then I want take-backs. Well, we all know what happens when women and other power-minorities cry “appropriation”: a smear campaign ensues. Jarvis was eventually placed in a sanitorium, her stay funded by the nice “people connected with the floral and greeting card industries.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Jarvis

So, yeah this is a blog about Mother’s Day, kind of, but it’s more a reminder of how for centuries those who are not at the top of the capitalist (social and economic) food chain have things snatched away from them on the regular. Why only recently did Jack Daniels, the Tennessee whiskey distiller, acknowledge that an enslaved man named Jack Green was the one who taught the good men there to make whiskey in the first place. He was even named “head distiller” for a minute, until the realization that that optic would not sit right with too many of the libation’s consumers. And yes, the man has been acknowledged now, but have his ancestors been paid for his labor? You know, the Reparations word. Doesn’t look like it.

Capitalism is pretty fabulous for those who have money to make money. You might notice that many of us suggesting a more expansive thinking on our country’s economic systems are not the ones at the financial top. (Though not always, thanks Bernie Sanders)! I do understand that I participate in, and benefit from, capitalism in a myriad of ways every day. I’m just saying, imagine if financial power was not our country’s top religion, its measuring stick of success, the lofty goal we have been inculcated with. Maybe Miss Jarvis could have kept her day to commemorate all mothers as a simple ceremony of white carnations. (The flower industry actually ran out of white carnations at one point and so introduced the idea of red ones to compliment the holiday bouquets)! And imagine if Mr. Green had a place at the table from the start of the now billion dollar spirits industry, commensurate with his contributions. His family could have enjoyed the benefits of wealth passed down through generations by now, like so many of the White families associated with this particular industry.

Maybe you have an example wherein the love of money (because the Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil, it specifies, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV). Seems like lots of folk get pierced through by money-lovers. Has there been a time that you, someone you know — or know about — has had their humanity removed in the name of capitalism? I’d love it if you shared that story.

Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day to all. (For some of us lucky ones, most every day feels a lot like Mother’s Day anyway). Peace, love, and white carnations.

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