If there were poetic justice, if Hollywood or the publishing industry had true courage, the story of Rachel Corrie would be coming to a big screen or bookstore near you.
For now, the streets of Seattle will have to do. Tonight marks the third anniversary of the day Rachel died. A public reading of her mature writings will be held at 5 p.m. at Westlake Plaza.
Rachel was in the Middle East, trying to protect the home of a Palestinian from immoral demolition, when an Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar bulldozer killed her. He ran her over.
Maybe the young student from The Evergreen State College was a tad naive, a puppet of left-leaning loonies with the International Solidarity Movement. Some people think this. Maybe she was prescient beyond her 23 years, recognizing that her white skin and U.S. passport could bring vital attention to ignored people in subhuman and desperate conditions. Some think that.
Whichever the case, too many people are reflexively afraid of Rachel’s message, of what her short life and brutal death means.
The issue has gotten to the point that what passes for dialogue is either polemical shouting — or, worse, a campaign to silence the legacy of the young woman who addressed human suffering with fiery grace. Rachel cared about ordinary people outside of her comfort zone — enough to get off the couch and do something.
The New York Theater Workshop recently canceled a scheduled production of a play about Rachel amid rumors that gurus in the theater world and pro-Israel audiences would not like a script challenging their view of the world.
In Seattle, the Bread and Puppet Theater production of "Daughter Courage," a different play about Rachel, met with warm embrace. Still, my colleague, Regina Hackett, who wrote about it, received a rash of rebuke. On the Seattle P-I’s online blog, "Dr. Evil" wrote: "Only in this wonderful, liberal city would a pathetic naïve girl who tried to protect terrorists be celebrated."
If fear of offending Israel — a country in blind lockstep with the United States on foreign policy — drives this second silencing of Rachel, then her story is needed now more than ever.
Friends of Israel and Jews tend to react fast when they feel they’re getting a raw deal.
Seattle official Cindi Laws learned this the hard way. She made remarks that were considered anti-Semitic during a re-election bid for the monorail board, and people howled. Laws lost.
And remember what happened in 2004? The local Middle Eastern community tried to get pro-Palestinian language in the plank of the King County Democratic Party platform. Again, people howled. The language got nixed.
In both instances, the message was clear: Don’t mess with us.
The unease surrounding Rachel makes me wonder if she hits too close to home.
Her life follows the Aristotelian prescription of a good story. It features a protagonist with a desire for peace that takes her on a vision quest far away. She’s smart, young, idealistic — a female character that would draw A-list actresses.
The story overflows with potential villains, starting with the Israeli government, which illegally uses bulldozers as weapons of terror; Palestinians who resort to suicide bombs as an insane tool of revenge; and, even, U.S.-based Caterpillar, which counts the money as its bulldozers are used to spill blood.
There’s room for cameos by the State Department, which could ramp up pressure to get answers, and by concerned Israeli citizens who also want to know if the bulldozer operator, as he claims, didn’t see Rachel in her bright orange vest. There’s the bigger question of why no "Palestinian evil" was unearthed at the home Rachel died trying to protect.
The story presents another surprise — the unlikely transformation of Rachel’s parents, who have gone from being middle-class suburbanites to advocates for Palestinian justice.
When I spoke with Craig and Cindy Corrie a few weeks ago, they’d just come back home to the Seattle area after a rattling episode. In the Middle East, Palestinian activists had tried to kidnap them. The activists had a change of heart when they were told the couple’s last name. If that is not a powerful testament to Rachel’s legacy, I don’t know what is.
Rachel’s story has the incendiary aspects of "Crash," the political and corporate machinations of "Syriana," the death-on-foreign-soil intrigue of "The Constant Gardener," and the socially conscious punch of "Brokeback Mountain."
People would get to see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in all of its convoluted craziness — and see courage in action. To paraphrase the Oscar speech of George Clooney, they’d get to talk more loudly about an issue that remains, relatively speaking, a whisper.
Rachel Corrie is ready for her close-up. Are we?