By Debi Smith
Rachel Corrie, a US citizen, was run over and killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, March 16, 2003. Rachel, who was 23 years old, was non-violently protesting, with other members of the International Solidarity Movement, the razing of a Palestinian physician’s home.
Rachel was from Olympia, Washington. Before moving to Southern Oregon almost two years ago, I’d lived in and around Olympia for 14 years and was curious to know more about Rachel. I was deeply moved by what I found.
A photograph of Rachel Corrie, as a child, appeared in her Capital High School 1997 annual, “All Walks of Life.” It was accompanied by the following message from her family: “A World to be born under your footsteps. We celebrate you—in all you have learned, all you have given. We love you with all our hearts.”
In last year’s Procession of the Species Parade in Olympia, we see just what sort of world Rachel was trying to give birth to. I can personally attest to the vitality and creativity of this wonderful street parade. Last Spring, Rachel organized an entry in which 40 like-minded people marched as Peace Doves in the annual Procession. Reading about Rachel today, it’s so easy to imagine her exuberance and her commitment to “being the change” she desired to see in the world … both in a celebratory parade just last Spring and in putting her life on the line, with tragic personal results, for other human beings.
At this critical moment in the procession of our human species, may we each proceed forth in our own peace dove costumes, parading bravely out into every corner of the earth, rising up to champion true freedom, justice, security, and peace for every man, woman, and child. Rising up to resist that which does not serve our collective and common humanity. Declaring our vision and holding it for eternity. May we dance and sing our songs of peace and love—in dusty roads and villages, in elevators and theaters, in pubs and pool halls, in our homes and places of worship, in our schools and businesses, in our public places and private, in our emails, letters, and phone calls, in places of discord and in places of harmony. May we be loud and commanding, yet also non-violent, compassionate, and under-standing. Some may choose to become human shields in Palestine or Iraq. And this is worthy. But for the masses, the most effective way to rise up and resist is also the closest and easiest thing we can do. Our everyday choices and actions—what we buy, consume, and thereby support; how we choose to get our news, infor-mation, and educate ourselves; how we relate to our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers; how we handle challenges, problems, and our own thinking; if we’re brave and willing enough to take back, through democratic process (and/or non-violent action and civil disobedience) our government, streets, planet, and hu-manity—these are all potent things. They speak louder than words, and these actions are changing the world.
May the difficult labor of Rachel Corrie, combined with the labor of millions more activated humans around the globe, breathe together the birth of a brave new world, in which every footstep counts, in which every footstep experiences life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in which we finally realize as a race of humans that our differences are the jewels in the sameness of our crown. When the crown and jewels become tarnished do we throw it away? Do we bulldoze it? Do we “shock and awe” it to death?
Rachel’s life stood for something, as do the lives of the people she died defending. The life of the bulldozer operator stands for something. The lives of our perceived “enemies” stand for something. The lives of all the countless people to ever die an unjust death or live an unjust life were worth something. The lives of the Bush family? Although hard for some of us to believe, are worth something. The life of the peacenik and the life of the war supporter—worth something. As Thic Nhat Hanh has said: “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” There just might be something to that and to the spiritual advice that has been handed down to us from many different traditions, advice that we’ve mostly tended to ignore in our human history, to our subsequent demise: “Love your enemies. Love your neighbors as yourself. Treat others as you’d have them treat you. What goes around comes around (positive and negative). We are one.”
To an end to the illusion of our separateness. To the pitter patter of soft footsteps upon a new world. Not a new world narrowly defined by an elite few with self-serving interests, but a world broadly, generously, fairly, joyously defined by the interests common to every sentient being that exists.
Debi Smith is a writer who lives in Ashland, Oregon.
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