“Life is very difficult. Human beings can be kind, brave and strong, even in the most difficult of circumstances.”
“Thank you for existing, for showing how good people can be, despite great hardship.”
— Excerpts from the journals of Rachel Corrie
I was conducting my daily review of MSNBC when I clicked on a story about the verdict in the death of Rachel Corrie. I must confess it was the first time I had ever read her name. My life being what it is, I tend to fade in and out of the daily news circuit. The original story from 2003 slipped past me.
The verdict in question was handed down from an Israeli court that found that the military was not responsible for Corrie’s death.
Corrie was run over by a bulldozer while defending the homes of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The homes were being destroyed in an effort to eradicate the area of hostile forces. It was, in the eyes of the Israeli military, an active war zone.
I have never ventured into Mideast politics, and I have no intention to do so now. What caught my attention in reading about the verdict was the complete lack of humanity displayed, the complete lack of self-reflection or willingness to acknowledge mistakes were made, and a life foolishly and needlessly taken.
Corrie was just 23 when she was killed. She was a beautiful, idealistic and committed young woman who took a courageous position and defended it. Regardless of your politics, in this country of free expression, she was heroic in finding her voice and having it heard.
The court’s ruling read in part that Corrie “put herself in a dangerous situation … ,” stating her death was “… the result of an accident she brought upon herself.” The court found the military entirely blameless.
Regardless of the differing opinions on how Corrie’s death played out, the military acknowledges it knew protesters were in the area. It knew they were wearing bright orange vests while standing to defend the homes of those they loved. Rather than making arrests and removing the protesters from the war zone, the bulldozer plowed on and over Corrie. It then backed up and ran over her broken body again. She didn’t have a chance.
I don’t know what I would have expected from the Israeli courts. Perhaps I would like them to give Corrie’s end some dignity by acknowledging it was a tragic mistake. Perhaps I would hope they would pay the family the $1 in damages they were seeking. More than anything I wish they would acknowledge Corrie’s humanity. They did not.
To state the obvious, until Corrie and others like her are humanized, this conflict will never end. No conflict will ever end. As long as we can look across the blade of a bulldozer and forge ahead without concern for those beneath it, we are doomed.
The Israeli courts had an opportunity to humanize Corrie by looking down into the bloodied earth and finding in their hearts some remorse. Regrettably, their gaze held fast, unmoving and without repentance.
That is why I am drawn to Corrie’s story, because it brings the absurdity of war to the human level. Corrie is wholly and completely human. I know her. Out of the nameless numbers, a recognizable face emerges. I hear a voice speaking in my tongue. Corrie’s story compels me to pause, reflect, pray and mourn.
This column is one small attempt to have Corrie’s voice carry on, to have her story echo and remind us that there are human beings beneath the metal blades and armor. And when one is lost, we all are.