As I prepare to leave for Turkey, and as I continue to absorb the onslaught of the news and reflect on this harrowing summer, the words of Rachel Corrie echo,* written in an e-mail to her mother from Rafah, Gaza three days before her death:
I’m having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach from being doted on very sweetly by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States it all sounds like hyperbole. A lot of the time the kindness of the people here, coupled with the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry. It hurts me again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be….
….It is my own selfishness and will to optimism that wants to believe that even people with a great deal of privilege don’t just sit idly by and watch. What we are paying for here is truly evil… Just want to tell my mom that I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us to all drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comic books for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of the world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I was two and looked at Captiol Lake and said, “This is the wide world and I’m coming into it.”
My ears ring and my heart implodes with Pochter’s letter as well:
I hope you will never stop your curiosity for the beautiful things in life. Go on hikes in canyons, forests and mountains, go fishing, research wildlife, and get out of the city if you can. Surround yourself with good friends who care about your future. Fall in love with someone. Get your heart broken. Then move on and fall in love again. Breathe life every day like it’s your first. Find something that you love to do and never stop doing that thing unless you find something you love more.
Don’t blame others for their mistakes. It makes you weak…. Speak with conviction and believe in yourself because your personal confidence is just as important as your education….
Try not to forget me.
You told me how proud you were, and so I’m not going to let you down. I’m going to learn a language and connect with real people. I’m going to eat regional foods and learn how to make them myself, with friends, in a kitchen. I’m going to find the most beautiful mountain in Turkey and hike it and plant a tree for you there. I’m going to read, and ask questions, and write poetry, and I will never, ever forget you.
Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Iraq… my heart breaks and my resolve deepens. This has to stop.
*This quote is excerpted from My Name is Rachel Corrie, adapted by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner.