After all the outcry concerning the intolerance of the Islamic world in their impassioned response to the degrading cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed, where is the outrage in response to the silencing of Rachel Corrie by the New York Theater Workshop?
Is there a double standard in western values of free speech? You bet there is. The hypocrisy runs so deep that the vast majority of Americans does not know who Rachel Corrie is and, thanks to the self-imposed gag rule of cultural and media institutions, they never will.
In a year when Hollywood embraced such groundbreaking movies as Goodnight & Good Luck, Syriana, Trans America, Brokeback Mountain and Crash, a New York theater company cancelled a production of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie on the grounds that the public outcry would be unbearable.
The rationale is a lie on its face. As anyone in theater knows, controversy is manna from heaven. It was not public outcry that silenced the voice of a martyr; it was the censorship imposed by Israeli loyalists. It was the promise that generous public funding and contributions would suddenly come up short. It was intolerance for any view, any story, that does not portray Israel as the righteous party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Who was Rachel Corrie?
She was an all-American girl who was impassioned by the cause of the Palestinian people. In an act of civil disobedience, like the anonymous hero of Tiananmen Square, she stood before an Israeli bulldozer preparing to demolish a Palestinian neighborhood. She stood against injustice and oppression. She stood courageously for the values that all Americans cherish and she was crushed by the heavy and heartless hand of Israeli indifference.
She stood in the way of the “Road Map” to peace. She stood in the way of Ariel Sharon’s new deal for the Palestinians: let them eat dirt and suffer as we assassinate their leaders with American-made precision bombs and reduce their homes to rubble.
Rachel Corrie had the audacity to care and, beyond caring, to act on her convictions. Without regard to any judgments you may impose on the validity of her cause or means, Rachel Corrie was the essence of courage and heroism. She was what every mother’s child should endeavor to be. She chose the ground upon which she would make her stand and paid for it with her life.
Like Marla Ruzicka and so many others, most of whom will never have a public name, whose stories will never be told, Rachel Corrie will never speak for herself again. From the silence of her grave, she will never answer her detractors. She will never marry. She will never have children. She will never be elected to Congress. She will never know the joy and sorrow of a life fully lived.
The essential question of whether her life, her cause and her sacrifice were worthwhile and the greater question of whether or not she made a difference in this indifferent world can only be answered by the living.
If we do not possess the courage even to tell her story for fear of public outcry, then we are truly complicit in the actions of her murderers. We are enabling when all that we know and feel begs us for retribution.
Imagine what being crushed by a bulldozer would feel like. Linger on that gruesome deed and allow your tears to flow like a river of redemption. Even the vilest creature on earth would not deserve such a death.
Rachel Corrie was no such creature.
Let her voice be heard. Let her story be told.