Today, March 16th, marks the ninth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie.
Though perhaps one of the most controversial activists, martyrs, and political figures of the 21st Century so far, I have nurtured a complex admiration and understanding of Rachel Corrie. It’s no secret that her cause – the Palestinian/Israeli conflict – is drenched in complicated and politically charged melodrama (to put it, well, extremely mildly). As i have said before, this is not an issue i feel informed enough to make a public stance on; and it is for this very reason i choose to remember Rachel Corrie on this day rather, than to make a public claim for either side of the issue. The truth resists simplicity, and though Rachel Corrie herself was a woman representing one very prominent and subjective side to the Arab/Israeli conflict, she herself embodied this idea with remarkable intricacy.
I first came into knowing about Rachel Corrie in the fall after my first trip to Uganda. Whilst browsing the Dramatist website for new plays, i stumbled across this work for a one-woman show, entitled: My Name is Rachel Corrie. It intrigued me, and, more to the point at the time, the original production had been directed by Alan Rickman. Naturally, within a month it was in my possession.
Within the hour it took me to read it i was moved to my core. The play, which is based on her writings mostly as a young woman in her late teens and early twenties, is a masterpiece. More than its literary value, however, were the words of Rachel as parallel to emotions i was unpacking around activism and nonviolence at the time myself. There were the obvious, growing-out-of-the-guarded-castle similarities in her global-citizen awakening – but, more unnervingly, there were the frank parallels in our mutual taste for certain brands of pens or intricately papering our bedroom walls with feminist art. Here was a woman painted in word who was, to paraphrase Pablo Picasso, a lie by which i was seeing truth. A young woman who had died protesting a bulldozer’s track – protesting an action she saw rife with injustice.
It terrified me. And it was an immense relief.
In an email she wrote to her mother, she expressed something i had wanted to articulate for months, but had not possessed the words;
“I know I scare you, but I want to write and I want to see. and what would I write about if I stayed within the doll’s house, the flower-world I grew up in? I love you, but I’m growing out of what you gave me … let me fight my monsters. I love you. You made me. You made me.”
For reasons i am still unable to articulate today, this sits with me. Still. I cannot read her emails or the play without feeling so despairingly sad for a woman with so much life ahead of her and so terrified for the machine of injustice that consumes such lights in the world.
I don’t mean to be a mega-downer on this Friday, a day meant for jubilation for an approaching weekend (even if Cousin Violet doesn’t know what a ‘week-end’ is) and spring breaks, but i think the fact that a day of memoriam exists for her for a reason. And in my own corner of the universe, i wanted to honor those reasons. She was resilient, funny, brilliant, and committed. She gave her life in the name of justice, and she never set out to be any kind of hero. She sought freedom, and while this is a day that honors one American, she is a symbol to honor the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who have died at the expense of violence. A reminder to us all.
current jam: still ‘vienna’ by billy joel.