A call for a ceasefire is a call to stop everything. (October 28, 2023)

Michelle Mascarenhas
5 min readOct 28, 2023
Kid’s handmade sign “Save Gaza. From the land to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

I had trouble sleeping last night, as all communication into, within, or out of Gaza was turned off by the Israeli state with the blessing and funds of the United States. Thinking about the terror that people living in the open-air prison that is Gaza already felt before October 7 and now, gathered in the dark unable to reach out for an ambulance if a bomb drops nearby, I am terrified for them.

I can’t stop thinking about the family I saw on Al-Jazeera, a father and his two daughters who had tied colorful handmade bracelets around each others wrists and ankles so that they could identify some part of their bodies if/when they were blown up. The family had split up into different places so they would not all be killed at the same time. The mother was with the younger children somewhere else. Rubble and blown up buildings everywhere around them. People searching for survivors or parts of their bodies.

In 1990 when I was 19, I went to countless teach-ins and demonstrations to stop the first war on Iraq — the Gulf War or what became Operation Desert Storm. We were few. And we didn’t stop the bombing. The images that came through of the children mutilated and killed, held by their grief-stricken parents broke my heart. I made a sign that was heartfelt (but not very poetic) that said “Iraqi child or US child, You tell Me the Difference!”

These words came back to me when the bombs exploded at the Al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza on Monday, October 9, 2023 and I got a call from my 19-year old daughter saying she couldn’t stop crying. “They are killing so many babies. So many children,” she said. “It is horrible.”

A little over ten years after the US bombs dropped on Iraq in that first Gulf War of 1991, the US would again storm Iraq and also, this time, Afghanistan after 9/11 when angry and armed men brought the horror to this soil. The seeds of this season of fascism were sown (or maybe just watered) back then. The Patriot Act would make all of us feel that we had to give up our “freedoms.” Put our hands up, alone, in a bubble that could become a prison cell, every time we got on a plane. Islamaphobia was put on steroids. The infrastructure of the zionist colonization machine was given new life support (it will eventually die). Anti-semitism, racism, misogyny and homophobia bloomed.

As soon as news hit of the horrifying Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant attacks and hostage taking on the Israeli settlements across the border from Gaza on October 7, it was clear the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza would accelerate to full force. And it has done so beyond what was imagined possible under the noses of a global consensus (minus the bully, the U.S.) that Israel must ceasefire, stop collective punishment and bombing of civilians, and allow humanitarian aid to flow. What happens next?

What am I teaching my children in this moment? To keep a clean house, lock the door and hope for peace? Or that all life is precious. Sacred. That land and water are life and that the indigenous peoples depending on them for generations know best how to steward them. That sometimes — like the bowling alley worker in Maine this week murdered in the latest mass shooting that has become a U.S. public health crisis — you have to listen to your gut and stand in the way of the bully. Stand with life.

The covid-19 lockdown and subsequent “return to normal” after global collective trauma amidst an unrelenting cascading crisis that is social-emotional, political, economic, and ecological. Cell phones. Streaming. Social media aided mental health crisis in young people. Fake news. Institutional collapse seen in health care, education, government. Last gasp extraction by force — from fossil fuels to imprisoned labor to sex trafficking.

The atomization of our lives has accelerated at a pace we neither expected nor consented to.

The impact on our bodies is clear. Do you feel it? We are all tweaking out. Especially our young ones. The elders who feel so alone. And if one of us is not feeling it, it’s likely because we are caring for someone who is on the edge or over it and we have to hold it together for them.

My sister mama asked the other day as we checked in, “when do we just call it?”

Do you feel that? So y’all — can we just call it?

As mamas. As parents. As aunties and funkles. As caregivers. As lovers. As healers. As spiritual guides. As land care workers. As teachers. As health care workers. As engineers. As introverts. As young people on the eve of transition to becoming their full and precious selves rather than an Amazon or fast food worker...

We join Palestinian people, Indigenous people everywhere, people disabled by this system, and countless others to say ENOUGH!

We do not consent to the killing of children. Palestinian children, Jewish children, my child, your child. Nor will we stand for the killing of their parents, aunties, uncles, neighbors, grandmothers, shopkeepers, doctors, teachers, garbage collectors…

I’m ready to go.

In my dream last night I saw us in a mamas peace squad. A mama’s security force is one armed with blankets, band aids, comfort food, clean water, making a way where there is no way. Standing in the way of the bully.

I don’t know yet what this all looks like but can we talk about it together? Around a fire. Tonight? This is the work of a matriarchy. A movement matriarchy. And you don’t have to have given birth to or raised a child to mother. Queer, trans, gender non-binary, poor folks, Black and Indigenous movement leaders and so many others are doing the work of mothering the world all the time. Palestinians have been doing this daily for generations.

Can we birth that new world together? Can we get out of the cognitive shackles that keep us atomized and isolated to breathe, sing, cry, and dream together? Take the steps to organize to make everyday life in a way that puts us in the way of the death machine while leveraging change towards protecting and affirming life?

Text, comment, or DM me if you’re down. (no haters please)

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Michelle Mascarenhas

Mama & social movement weaver during late stage capitalism. Collective member of Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project. #JustTransition