Sunday, 6 June 2010

Rachel Corrie

Peace activist Rachel Corrie

I've always admired Alan Rickman's acting, and when I saw he had helped write a play, I bought it. The play was called "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" and I devoured it in one sitting.

The play is built from Rachel's own writings - particularly her diary - and it is delightful and powerful.

From the first words "Every morning I wake up in my red bedroom that seemed like genius when I painted it, but looks more and more like carnage these days" we are taken into the world of a young, idealistic, funny person, full of the joy of life and a gift for words - and a passion to make a difference.

In early 2003 Rachel travelled from her home near Seattle in the United States to Palestine, where she lived with Palestinian families and worked with the International Solidarity Movement - a non-violent resistance group. She witnessed the destruction of Palestinian homes, and the constant threat to Palestinians:
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. I don't know if many of the Arab children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls. I think that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. They love to get me to practise my limited Arabic. Today I tried to learn to say "Bush is a tool", but I don't think it translated quite right.

If I feel outrage at entering briefly into the world in which these children exist, I wonder how it would be for them to arrive in my world. Once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, spent an evening when you didn't wonder if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward, aren't surrounded by towers, tanks, and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years spent existing - just existing - in resistance to the constant attempt to erase you from your home. This is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
To her mother she wrote:
Just want to tell my mom that I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don't think it's an extremist thing to do any more. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people have asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I was two and looked at Capitol Lake and said: "This is the wide world and I am coming into it."
A few days after she wrote these words, on 16th March 2003, when Rachel was 23 years old, she went to the house of Palestinian pharmacist Dr Samir Nasrallah, with whose family she had often stayed. At 2 pm that day she stood between the house and an Israeli army bulldozer. According to eyewitnesses, the bulldozer was 30 metres away and took at least ten seconds to reach her. She was in clear view. As the mound of earth being built by the bulldozer blade reached her she stood on it so as not to lose her footing. She was in the middle of the driver's field of vision - and that of the other soldier who sat beside him. The bulldozer kept going. She was swept under it. She died of her injuries.

The relief ship which has just been boarded by Israeli armed forces is named in her honour the "Rachel Corrie".

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