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(DV) Zingh: Opening Night at "My Name is Rachel Corrie"





Keep the Candle Burning
Opening Night at “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”
by Zbignew Zingh
March 18, 2007

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This week, I watched the opening night of the West Coast performance of “My Name is Rachel Corrie.” It was the fourth anniversary of Rachel's death. At the age of 23, she was crushed beneath the blade of a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli IDF while trying to defend a Palestinian family's house from destruction. The official investigation whitewashed the incident and, in an exercise of boring familiarity for our times, it blamed the circumstances of amorphous terrorism, the fog of war and the innocent victim herself for having tried to interpose her own body in an effort to avert injustice.  

Unlike its fulsome praise for the sole Chinese man who, in 1989, stopped bare-handed a column of “Communist” government tanks at Tiananmen Square, the United States government has, at best, ignored Rachel Corrie and, at worst, slighted her as a naïve and liberal fool. 
This, then, is the 90-minute one woman play that New York did not dare to perform. It is now showing in Seattle, almost as far from Broadway as one can get in the continental United States. 
The story concerns a young woman from Olympia, Washington -- a small, middle class, liberal-leaning city at the southernmost tip of Puget Sound. The play, based on Rachel's own journals and emails, is about someone who lives, and dies, for an idea -- a positive and peaceful idea. It is an idea that people have basic rights: the right to live, to live peaceably, to work, to go to school, to play and the right not to be hunted down and shot like so many stray dogs.  
But this is more than just a story about a cause. It is also the story about the evolution of a young woman from a happy-go-lucky American girl growing into a state of mature consciousness. It is a painful story of the evergreen forests of the Northwest and ancient salmon runs that now channel into dark and narrow subterranean pipes where once pristine streams flowed to their hatcheries. It is a story of young American innocence juxtaposed with the reality of life in the prison camp that is called Palestine. It is about growing up fast in a tough world still largely invisible to America's middle class children. It is about a brief, brilliant flame of awareness, snuffed out by a perverted reaction to one wretched holocaust that then has created another. It is about a kid who took the red pill, saw the truth and was killed by it. So this, then, is her story, largely in her own words, because otherwise it would be extinguished as quickly as was the woman. 
The play, like real life, is performed without intermission. It works very effectively because of the excellent acting of its one-woman performer. The set is gradually re-staged as the play unfolds from Rachel's adolescent bedroom in the United States to the houses of the Palestinian people she has undertaken to defend. As the play advances chronologically through the ages of innocence into laser gun-sight consciousness, the audience smiles and laughs in its early and middle segments; and then, ultimately, they cry, as the story marches inexorably toward its date with the bulldozer and death. 
At the entrance to the theater, some people distributed propaganda flak seeking to “contextualize” the killing of Ms. Corrie. There were some very expensive full page “counter-Corrie ads” purchased by groups to run in the programs. No one minded because that added authenticity and urgency to the theater ambiance. 
This month marks the fourth anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death beneath the treads of the Israeli IDF. It is also almost five months since the October 27, 2006 murder of American independent film maker and journalist, Brad Will, who was fatally shot in the chest by pro-government goons in Oaxaca, Mexico. I mention both young martyrs in the same story because in both cases the government of the United States did practically nothing to investigate their killings and absolutely nothing to bring their killers to justice. Thus, while the US government enacts morality plays in Guantanamo in the name of fighting “terrorism”, it shrugs off homicide committed against its own citizens by those allied with American economic and energy interests. And these two -- Rachel Corrie and Brad Will -- are only two of the better known victims of cynical policies of disinterest deployed against thousands and thousands and thousands of people, white and non-white, middle and working class, foreign and domestic. 
I do not know what kind of future citizens our government expects to brew in its boiling crucible of slavish obedience and jingoism. I do know that two of its best, two of the finer young representatives of US citizenship, died for worthy causes with no more than a disrespectful snort from their own government. 
His name was Brad Will. Her name was Rachel Corrie. See the play. Keep the candle burning.

Zbignew Zingh can be reached at: This article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at: copyleft 2007.

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