Saturday, March 16, 2013

To smile because of the things I have done

 Ten years ago Rachel Corrie died. I remember I was in the kitchen when it was reported on the radio with the scant details, a young American woman killed protesting in Palestine. I felt that I had been kicked in the chest, could Israel just kill an American like that? There had to be consequences right?
Rachel Corrie's death mattered to me because there was a part of me that wanted to be her. I did not know anything about her when I first heard her death but I had a sense of the kind of person she was and it was confirmed when I learned more about her. Young, idealistic, overwhelmed by the awfulness of the occupation she wanted to stand in solidarity with the people she had come to know, and I'm sure, try in some small way to make up for what her government had done to them. I had at one time imagined myself as traveling to distant countries and doing such things.
I chose a different path as they say, or really I feel that a different path chose me. I had never visualized marriage and kids but at the time of Corrie's death I had a 2 1/2 year old and adventure travel was not likely in the near future. The irony was, had I not had a child I would have not had the perspective on the Israel-Palestine that I had developed at the time of Corrie's death.
My son was born September 1, 2000 about the same time as the second intifada broke out. There was a presidential election as well but I don't have strong memories of that campaign, even though I know I was interested and paying close attention. What I do have strong memories of was the endless reporting--on NPR no less--of Palestinian deaths. I spent the last few months of 2000 either in bed, on a sofa, or on my butt, sleeping or breastfeeding. I didn't do very much, I didn't go out very much, I don't even remember a lot of detail of my son's early days, sleep-deprived as they were. But all that sitting and lying around forced me to think about the crisis at hand, I could not escape thinking about it. I can easily recall the sense of awfulness, of helplessness, of what was happening so far away and thinking, can Israel just kill them? Am I the only person hearing this-because can't somebody somewhere do something? I had gradually come to learn about the reality of the occupation over the past few years before that but it was during those first few months of the second intifada that it came together for me.
So when I heard of Corrie's death I felt moved by the sense that I should be there, and equally horrified that had I been there I would have been run over by a bulldozer too, because I would have thought they would stop.
I had the chance to meet her parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie. If you are a parent, you cannot imagine anything worse then your child dying--as my mother says, it defies the natural order of things. Craig and Cindy have chosen to take up Rachel's cause--while fighting for justice for Rachel they have taken up the Palestinian cause as well. "Grace" is not a word used often these days but since I met them I feel they personify it. To take such a loss and to try to use it as force for good, to do so with not a trace of outward bitterness--they are the nicest people--that is grace.
Not long after Corrie died Tom Hurdall, a 21 year-old British citizen was shot by Israeli forces trying to protect some Palestinian children. Hurdall was drawn to Gaza for similar reasons as Corrie was and wrote to his family not long before his death
"What do I want from this life? What makes you happy is not enough. All the things that satisfy our instincts only satisfy the animal in us. I want to be proud of myself. I want more. I want to look up to myself and when I die, I want to smile because of the things I have done, not cry for the things I haven't done."
Is this not what we all strive for? In some small way, to make the world a better place, to do as much as you can with what you have, and to have as little regrets as possible.

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