I have always been really sensitive to violence. When I was young it wasn't uncommon for me to run to my room sobbing because of things I'd seen in a movie or on TV. Even now when I read or see something violent it stays with me for days, clinging to my mind, and eating away at parts of my heart. There is nothing enjoyable to me in violence, even when I know it is "pretend". I thought that as I got older I would get thicker skin and that violence wouldn't bother me so much. I haven't. In fact, I think that my ability to watch any sort of violence has grown increasingly less... especially since I've become a mother.
In college I worked for the Women's Research Institute at BYU for four years helping a professor research peace education programs and women's involvement in peace. It was amazing to me to discover that many of the world's largest peace movements and education programs were started and are run by women, specifically mothers. I've pondered on this a lot the last few years and I've realized the reason that women through out the world are so active in peace movements is because women understand the true value of human life.
If you were to intentionally destroy the Mona Lisa you'd in essence be destroying a part of Leonardo da Vinci. You'd be erasing forever the strokes his hand painted, the workings of his mind, part of his history, and his vision for the world. In a similar way every time a human life is destroyed it destroys a part of the woman who created that life. Just like the artist is the only one who can comprehend the true value of his masterpiece. So does a woman truly comprehend the full value of human life. She has given parts of herself to create it, she shed her blood to bring it to the light, she feed it and nurtured it with her body, and she invested years of her life teaching, training, loving, and shaping it.
Human life is woman's masterpiece.
The degree to which we honor and protect a masterpiece shows the value we give to the master who created it. For example, the Mona Lisa hangs in a beautiful museum, encased in glass and protective coverings, and surrounded by guards who are dedicated to its preservation. We go to a lot of effort to preserve that painting because we know that it is "one of a kind" and that it is irreplaceable. If anything was to happen to it the world would mourn deeply, not only because we'd have lost something of unique value, but because we'd have lost a part of the artist who created it. In the same way the way we honor and protect human life shows the value we give to those who created it. President Thomas S. Monson has said,
"One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one." (From "Behold Thy Mother")Women are co-creators with God and a society that is seeped in or accepting of violence-- real or pretend-- is one that at its core does not value or honor women... or God.
I realize that because we live in a wicked world that we may not be able to escape war in our day and age but I'd like to think that we could be raising our children to value and appreciate the true value of all human life. When World War I began Emmeline B. Wells, then serving as the General Relief Society President, was concerned about how war would affect the women and the homes of the sisters. She counseled them,
"... guard your little ones; do not permit them to imbibe the spirit of intolerance or hatred to any nation or to any people; keep firearms out of their hands, do not allow them to play at war nor to find amusement in imitating death in battle... Teach the peaceable things of the kingdom [and] look after the needy more diligently than ever." (Daughters in My Kingdom, page 64).The amount of violence we tolerate, accept, and perpetuate in our society today scares me. It breaks my heart to watch the news and see the way in which human life is so carelessly disposed of and makes me nervous for the future of women in the world. In a similar way my heart aches to my core when I see young men playing violent video games or young women enjoying violent movies. How can destroying life-- even in jest-- ever be considered fun?
I think that there is more of a need today than in Sister Wells' time for us to "teach the peaceable things of the kingdom" in our homes and in our societies. Just imagine the power that would come if women were united in their dedication to the sanctity of life and to peace; and imagine what sort of world we would have if MEN were just as dedicated to life and peace.
Because when it comes right down to it... all violence is violence against women.