What Would Happen If?


I squirrel information away; it is my trade. I keep it like acorns until I need it, just like the squirrels. Tonight I was poring over my acorns, and found one I had almost forgotten. I want to share it with you.

Kathe Kollwitz was an artist, lithographer, and sculptor in Germany (there's an umlaut over the "a" in her name). Her younger son died in World War !; she was targeted by the Nazis, and outlived her husband and grandson, only to die 16 days before the end of World War II. Kollwitz was against war and its cruelty, but what stuns about her art is how she sees this cruelty from an avowedly female perspective. No man could have created this art. Consider but a few images of her work, take from what is available on the internet:

These statues, "The Grieving Parents," are in the Belgian cemetery where her son who died in WWI is buried:















This statue is of a mother holding her dead son--not a child, but a young man:























This print is entitled, "Seed Corn Must Not be Ground," referring to the young who must not be destroyed by war:














And I think this statue was a further articulation of that idea; it is called "A Tower of Mothers," who seek to protect the children over whom they have watchcare:


















In this print, entitled "After the Battle," a mother goes looking for--and finds--her dead son on the battlefield:















In the print below, a woman raped in war, is cast aside--













And in the final piece to share, a mother who has just given birth is seized by death:
























This is deep, deep stuff. It goes to the heart of the insanity of the mortal motherhood project--the insanity of trying to keep our children safe when we have borne them to die. It is enough to rip the heart right out of you, and what makes it worse is that the cruelty of war is dealth out, in the first place, by our own sons to our own sons and daughters. If I were not a believer, I would have died from this crazy pain long ago. It doesn't take a war for our children to be devoured by cruelty and death.

As I contemplate Kollwitz's vision, I remember a line from the poem that Muriel Rukeyser wrote about her. This is the line, and it rings true with every molecule of my body . . .

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open