Why we are all Rachel
March 16, 2010
I would like to begin by thanking the municipality of Ramallah and the popular committees, both of whom organized this event.
Thanks to the International Solidarity Movement for allowing me to speak on their behalf.
Thank you to the students of Kufr Sur Secondary School, who have done extensive research about Rachel Corrie and held a beautiful demonstration this morning.
Thank you, Cindy and Craig Corrie, for sharing your daughter with the world.
Thank you for the opportunity to deliver these words; it is quite an honor.
Thank you for remembering Rachel.
We remember the countless Palestinians and others who have lost their lives in this struggle and other non-violent fights against inequality in this world.
We remember the ISM activists Tom Hurndall, also killed in Rafah; Brian Avery, shot in the same month; and Tristan Anderson, still in the hospital.
Rachel Corrie is particularly significant to me because I grew up near to her hometown, Olympia, and because I am a student at her university. Were I a few years older, we could have been schoolmates. However, her life has impacted a tremendous number of people who don’t seem to have much in common with her.
We remember Rachel because of the fateful day her life was taken by the Israeli military. This tragedy was felt both globally and in particularly in Rachel’s and my corner of the world. It seems incredible to many that a young woman would travel so far from home to stand in solidarity with a foreign people and culture; ultimately giving her life for the Palestinian cause.
Rachel is an inspirational figure not only because of her courageous actions on March 16th, but also because of the life she led and the words she left behind. Her journals tell the tale of a person deeply and profoundly affected by suffering and injustice in the world, and from a remarkably young age. Her entire life was committed to, in the simple words of a fifth grader, “giving the poor a chance”. This basic and fundamental dedication to fighting for equal chances as humans is profound enough, and expressed so eloquently both in her writing and actions, that it compels us to act.
I believe that Rachel’s commitment, which put her there that day, is a spark we all have. Her inability to look away and remain silent is not unique; it is what has defined all great non-violent movements. It is what makes us wonderfully human; it is what makes us alive. So today as we mark Rachel’s death, let us also remember that spark of collective humanity, which compels us to step forward in solidarity and prohibits us from remaining silent.
I stand here today because of Rachel’s actions. At the age of 13, as my nation began a second tragic conflict, I felt a youthful sense of bewilderment and grief which I would later recognize in Rachel’s journals. I will never forget the day posters of Rachel appeared at our anti-war vigil. The weathered and stoic pillars of activism wept bitterly. I will never forget their tears, nor the image of her smiling face held on street corners. Rachel’s death was felt from Olympia, to my hometown of Bellingham, to Ramallah, Rafah and many, many other places.
As a member of ISM, I speak for a remarkable group of activists worldwide when I say that we are inspired by Rachel’s example to stand in solidarity with Palestinian non-violent resistance. We come to tell Palestine that we will stand peacefully alongside you until the occupation has ended. We tell the world that it can no longer ignore the spark of humanity, which compels us to act in circumstances of grave injustice.
Rachel sent a very clear message with her life, and this anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect upon ours. I believe she would ask us to examine our lives for ways in which we can hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are united by the Palestinian cause, but also by our spark of collective humanity.
We should aspire to expose inequality in even the smallest of actions, knowing that those ultimately compose our experience.
We should not doubt the power of our words and larger statements, knowing that these will extend beyond imaginable scope, just as teenagers like myself thousands of miles away can be forever affected by those of us here.
We should not hesitate in our peaceful struggle for the Palestinian cause, remembering those who have gone before us and those whose freedoms will come from our diligence. We are fighting a battle which at times feels hopeless and impossibly removed from the world at large, but it is at these darkest moments that we should remember Rachel’s spark which inspires us. Palestinians should know that although they suffer terribly from the occupation, they are not alone. Like Rachel, we share the sense of collective humanity, which leads us to stand alongside you and share your stories with the world.
We should never doubt the importance of non-violence, seeing the immense strength of those who resist courageously with their whole selves.
On those days when the noise of the occupation seems deafening, let us remember that hope must speak louder. We must remember that although we lost Rachel’s spark, we can use her life as an inspiration to find our own sparks of collective humanity.
Rachel leaves us tremendous gifts in her words and art. As we remember the incredible person Rachel was, let us also remember the necessity of creation. Rachel was a poet, so it seems fitting to end with a poem by the poet Andrea Gibson, who tells us:
he would paint with his own wet tongue
on the dusty floor of a jail cell
if he had to. We have to create.
It is the only thing louder than destruction.
It is the only chance the bars are gonna break.
Our hands full of color,
reaching towards the sky,
A brushstroke in the dark,
it is not too late.
That starry night, it is not yet dry.
(Three days after delivering this memorial, Ellen was shot with a rubber bullet, fracturing her wrist) -S