President's Message - March 2022

War … and Peace

Mary McKelvey

WLALA President 2021-2022

The dynamics of war are as old as humankind. Since the beginning of time, individuals, states, and political factions have gained sovereignty over regions through the use of violence and destruction.  I understand that there is both great tragedy and great nobility in battle.  There will always be things we must fight for and things we must stand against. The end of slavery in our own country came only after a bloody war that left an indelible imprint of divisiveness in our nation that remains today. It is the collateral damage that is much harder to reconcile, as it is the most vulnerable among us who bear the brunt of the carnage.  

This war against the Ukraine is particularly concerning given that the stability of Europe has not been so shaken since the end of World War II.  Perhaps most troubling of all is that the despots seem to be calling the shots in the world today, relentlessly motivated by insatiable power grabs.  Not just Vladimir Putin, but also Viktor Orban and Recep Erdogan and MBS and Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-Un and others who both together and separately seek to assault the very tenets of democracy.   This male model of dictatorial rule has become the norm of the 21st century and stands directly in conflict to any ideals  of global unity.

But the reaction to Putin’s invasion thus far has been extraordinary.  Far from being an easy battle, the Ukrainian people have shown a fierce and fearless courage that has inspired the world.  And, we have seen the true power of sanctions as the world steps up – warfare of the collective intellect versus drones, cyberattacks, and hypersonic missiles. But, in response, Putin put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert, a move widely criticized as unnecessary and escalatory.  Yet another irrational egomaniac with access to a nuclear button.

In the midst of all of this, I feel a void and a calling.  Where are the voices of the wise women in all of this?  Where are our women leaders on the world stage and where, oh where, is the unique strength and empathetic wisdom of women so sorely needed in these conversations?  I have to believe that strong femininity including our empathy, sensitivity, resilience, and creativity must be brought to bear on and interjected into the global calculus and conversation if we are to find paths to peace.   The words of Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell continually ring in my ears: “We need women who are not afraid of power – and not afraid to use it.” 

Despite all of this I remain hopeful… President Biden’s recent nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court ensures that the richness of our country’s highest court is represented by a member of a group unmistakably and historically overlooked in our country. If she is confirmed, the Supreme Court would have four female justices serving simultaneously. To date, there have never been more than three women serving on the Court at the same time. Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court serves not only as an inspiration and guiding light for all women, especially Black women and girls, but lifts the top echelons of the judiciary to new levels of diversity and potency.  A chance for true peace borne of deep wisdom is sparked here with the infusion of this diverse group of women comprising almost half of the seats on the highest court in the land.  I see this as the beginning of the leadership the world is hungering for and perhaps the dawning of a dynamic new chapter in Women’s History.