Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rachel Corrie: Eight Years Later

She would have turned 32 this April. Some passages from Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie:
Summer 1998

Came back from the cays today and wound up in a hotel room in Dangriga watching cable television and waiting for my stomachache to go away. Happened to flip on C-SPAN.

I gather the U.S. has dropped cruise missiles on Afghanistan and Sudan. I gather Clinton has admitted to having sex with "that intern." People are calling in from all over the U.S. to comment. And half of the people don't even seem to know that missiles were dropped - they're fixated on Clinton's tawdry sex life. One man actually quotes Wag the Dog to explain what's going on - like that's where we're gonna get the real information. A young boy voice calls up and is obviously reading a little prepared speech about Kenneth Starr being evil for embarrassing the president and keeping him from protecting the U.S. from the fascists. Everybody is conjecturing about the timing of the attack and calling for the president to resign.

And nobody says a word about how sad it is that people in this world have missiles dropped on them.

(p. 85)
November 6, 2001

Tools for Reading the News

Themes noticed in media coverage of the war:

* Focus on "Beards and Burkas" - emblematic, stereotypical, and "Western" concepts of increased freedom with the fall of Kandahar, etc.

* Polarizationn around dissent and obfuscation:
dissenters presented as "do nothing"
only alternatives are "do nothing" or the current situation

* Concern about duration of war/ground war portrayed as "hand-wringing" (Thomas Friedman, NYT "Give War a Chance" Op-Ed), neurotic, soft. Ex-military dudes as "Experts." NYT article picturing Phil Donahue states TV features no anti-war people, because they can't find anyone "credible" who opposes the war.

* Academia portrayed as oppressive place where normal folks who are pro-war can't voice opinions. Academia as weak link (The Olympian cartoons). Academics as so lost in theory that they espouse totalitarianism (Wall Street Journal - also equation of Marxism with totalitarianism).

*Free trade as solution to terrorism

*Donald Rumsfeld as charming, rugged Roosevelt character

*Human interest stories on immigrants who love the U.S.

*NYT - continuing stories on Islam in the U.S., Ramadan (what is the intent?)

*Bounds of acceptable debate: Military Tribunals or No Military Tribunals? Invade Iraq now or later? Who should we prop up as leader of Afghanistan? Torture or no torture?

(pp. 170-171)
November 20, 2001

Approaching the aftermath of September 11th from a civil liberties and ethnic equality perspective might ease some of the polarizing issues around the war - the narrow "attack Afghanistan and Iraq" vs. "do nothing" dialogue. Our local media really promote a pretty narrow view of what war is.

I think historical background also gives a lot of perspective. The similarity of rhetoric between 1798 and now is striking - as is the rhetoric used against the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). Drawing attention to the fact that "you're either for us or against us" and the suggestion that deserters should be deported were used to undercut Jeffersonian democracy. This might make it necessary, at least for people writing to The Olympian, to be a little more creative about the structure of their debate.

I don't think it's the greatest thing to rely on rich-white-male history as your source of historical argument. It just promotes the idea that it's the real history. But looking at this in conjunction with Japanese internment and what happened in Centralia and Everett might make it more clear why we should know by now that anytime your executive engages in a "cold war" or a "half war" or a war on anybody that is kind of hazy and not based on a preponderance of publicized evidence - and then simultaneously starts rounding up immigrants and passing legislation which makes peaceful membership in a group illegal - particularly in times when a ruling elite is showing signs of being threatened by broad-based grassroots organization - anytime all these things happen at once, we should all be very fucking suspicious.

Another thing about the civil liberties and ethnic/racial profiling thing - as far as local organizing goes, this has the potential for a lot more coalition-building and could make criticism of the war seem less radical and add more detail than just "peace."

Going to the City Council might not work - but it is a chance to get your cause seen on TV without going through the filters of The Olympian editing staff. I'm kind of interested in the response that might happen if people were shown on public television saying "Fuck John Ashcroft, Fuck the Patriot Act, Fuck Military Tribunals, and here is the historical evidence of why ... here's how it's affected us in teh past, here - locally.

(pp. 172-173)
January 19, 2003

...The scariest thing for non-Jewish Americans in talking about Palestinian self-determination is the fear of being or sounding anti-Semitic. Reading Chomsky's book and talking to my non-Zionist Jewish friends has helped me think about this. Mostly, I just think we all have the right to be critical of government policies ... any government policies ... particularly government policies which we are funding. It is important to recognize that the people of Israel are suffering and that Jewish people have a long history of oppression, which I think we, as U.S. citicens and non-Jews, still have some responsibility for - at least for undestanding the role fo anti-Semitism, U.S. foreign policy, and the slaughter of Jewish people in Europe (which the U.S. did not intervene to stop immediately and some of which we might have prevented had we allowed Jewish refugees to come here in greater numbers).

I think white people sometimes suffer in the United States from a system that still privileges us over people of color; men suffer from the system that privileges them over women; and Jewish Israelis suffer (much more than white people and men in the U.S.) from a system in Israel that privileges them over Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Nevertheless, the system remains a racist one...

(p. 226)
Learn more at Rachel's Words and The anniversary of her death is a stark reminder of just how dark the days were just as the war on the Iraqis was about to begin, and how dark they've been since. While right-wingers in the US and Israel would no doubt find her death to be a source for endless amusement (and for "respectable" liberals and moderates something not even worthy of so much as a shrug), for those of us who still give a damn about human rights there was (and still is) a sense of mourning and anger.

For a better understanding of the context in which Rachel was murdered, see Sonja Karkar's article from four years ago in CounterPunch, What Rachel Saw: Rachel Corrie and Palestine, as well as a slightly more recent article by Tom Wright and Therese Saliba, Five Years Later: Rachel Corrie's Case for Justice.

See also, my post from 2009. Never forget.

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