Guest contribution by Manar Mohammad
“We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
“We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
“We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.”
This is a short part of a speech that Rachel Corrie, then a mere ten years old, wrote for her school’s Fifth Grade Press Conference on World Hunger. (Watch the video here.) Back then, Rachel had only peeled back the curtain enough to reveal what she had inside of her. She grew up as a passionate and thoughtful child, questioning the world and writing about these thoughts in countless journals, as if one day these writings would speak back to her and give her the answers she needed. She did not know how to help, only that she wanted to, until she was a college student and joined the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza.
It was there she found her true calling and joined other activists in non-violent demonstrations opposing Israel. Rachel made friends with local Palestinian families, played with their children, wrote about the lives that survived around her and the lives she saw lost in conflict. Homes were being demolished by Israeli bulldozers and the borders of Gaza were closed, preventing anyone from leaving.
Only there did Rachel, a college student from Olympia, Washington, feel fear for people she had grown to know and love. It was there that Rachel found herself able to stand in front of the home of one of these families and sacrifice her life for theirs.
On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie became another symbol of Palestinian resistance. She became an inspiration to those who thought there was nothing they could do.
It was only a year ago that I stumbled upon a book of her writings, Let Me Stand Alone, which was a collection of her journals that her parents put together after her death. As a freshman in college and a Palestinian frantically searching for a way to work for my people, Rachel became my inspiration. How is it that a 23-year-old American girl can give up her studies, college friends, and privileged life for a life in conflict-stricken Gaza while I drink coffee at Starbucks, convincing myself that my voice sounds like a whisper in a crowd?
Yes, I am a Palestinian living miles and miles away from home. Yes, I am a Palestinian who closes her eyes and hears the sound of the doves on my bedroom window at dawn. Yes, I am a Palestinian who can still taste the love in her grandmother’s freshly baked bread and the kindness in her grandfather’s mint tea. Yes, I am a Palestinian who’s waved goodbye to a martyr. But I am also an American who believes that even if I walk around my college campus and tell people about my dreams for Palestine, these dreams can come true.
One day, we will all find it in us to make it up to Rachel and the countless lives lost like hers. We will show them that Palestine can and will be free.
Manar Mohammad is a sophomore Biology and English double major at Carthage College. She aspires to use her passion for writing and her voice in America to tell the stories that others need to hear to be moved to make a difference.