"To make a heroine out of a fool is poor judgment, regardless of the cause."
A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.
Parts of a tragedy
Corrie's character: the embodiment of human-rights drama
Editor, The Times:
It's costly to stand against human-rights abuses. Rachel Corrie [of Olympia, who was killed by a Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip] and members of the International Solidarity Movement did so, since our government refuses to send international observers from the U.N. ["Controversy follows 'Corrie' to Seattle stage," Times, Entertainment and the Arts, March 20].
I heard Corrie speak at a fundraising dinner at The Evergreen State College prior to her trip to Gaza. I have witnessed the continuing deterioration of Palestinian lives during eight trips to Israel/Palestine since 1992. I have waited at checkpoints, witnessed a young man being shot and killed by a soldier, stayed with Palestinian Christians, and worshipped in their churches. I have been to Gaza once as guests of the Middle East Council of Churches.
The play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," vividly shows life in Gaza, the world's largest prison, still occupied by Israel. Yes, 8,000 settlers were removed in 2006, but Israel still controls airspace and borders via electronic devices at checkpoints. Israel commits daily human-rights abuses through illegal home demolitions, land theft, diversion of water and brutal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem; 4,400 Palestinians have died since September 2000.
Seeing the play reminded us of Corrie's commitment to help make our world safer.
— Sue Ellen Johnson, Union
Diversion of the masses
I suppose it was inevitable: The play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," has brought all the terrorist apologists out of the woodwork, proclaiming Corrie a heroine and condemning the Israelis for brutally murdering a young woman who, though she may have had honorable intentions, wasn't very bright. (Standing in front of a moving bulldozer, especially one with armor plating, which severely limits the driver's vision, is a sure way to get nominated for the Darwin Award.)
Corrie was not a heroine. She was an idealistic young girl with far more zeal than sense, who let herself be manipulated by her Palestinian handlers for their own political gain, and who died not as a result of Israeli actions, but as a result of her own foolishness. She went to a part of the world where open, armed combat was a daily occurrence, then she disregarded multiple direct and clear warnings to leave the area because it was unsafe.
Her death was the result of her own bad choices, nothing more. To make a heroine out of a fool is poor judgment, regardless of the cause.
— Winston Rockwell, Kirkland
The aesthetic distance
Beginning last spring, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation sought meetings with Seattle Repertory Theatre to avert potential conflict over the production of the play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," and an opportunity to balance the bias we perceived in the play.
Rep staff told our designated Jewish community representative they would not allow any contextualizing of the play in the playbill, nor would they permit any pre- or post-play presentations to do so, either.
The representative was also told that if we wished to make our perspective known, we should take out paid advertisements in the playbill, which we decided to do — twice.
Neither ad — each of which cost hundreds of dollars — denounces the play. Nor did any major Jewish organization condemn the Rep's decision to mount the production. When denied this opportunity, we followed the advice given by the theater to advertise in the playbill, only to be publicly lambasted for doing so by the company's artistic director in the same publication.
Furthermore, when the Rep finally decided to provide some contextualizing of the play through post-play panels, major Jewish organizations were neither consulted nor asked to participate.
Rep artistic director David Esbjornson wrote that "the Seattle community has a long and admirable history of open dialogue on complex and controversial issues ... The dissent that often accompanies public dialogue can be healthy and productive — a way to advance our search for understanding."
I couldn't agree more; but, in my experience, open dialogue begins with honesty, not disingenuousness.
— Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director, American Jewish Committee, Greater Seattle Chapter (which presents the annual Seattle Jewish Film Festival)
A delicate imbalance
As I felt my way through Monday's production of "Rachel Corrie," I didn't see a particularly controversial play [" 'My Name Is Rachel Corrie': Play brings words of Olympia woman, activist to life," review, Entertainment and the Arts, March 23].
The play did achieve one goal: the presentation of one person's views and her heroic (perhaps foolish) action. It did not promise to present a balanced portrait of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and it didn't. Any indictment of Israel's actions were clearly the opinions of the central character, and the playwright was careful not to generalize that view.
As I watched the play, I marveled at how powerful it could have been! A missed opportunity! Place another Rachel Corrie on the opposite side of the border, living with Israeli families and feeling their loss, their grief, their despair — just like the Palestinian families who hosted the real Rachel Corrie. I believe the juxtaposition of the two communities, more alike than different, would have highlighted the futility of never-ending vengeance.
The endless actions and reactions of the Israeli military, like the endless actions and reactions of the militant Palestinians, sabotage the basic tenet of both religious communities: simply stated, that we should be kind to one another.
Thought-provoking it was. Good theater it was not.
Moral: All major religions of today have a central Golden Rule, worded differently, but always with the same intent, honored in the breach as much as in the observance.
— Robert Hauck, Shoreline
Those beyond care
Rick Thomas' letter ["Liberal raves: Light on our effete," Northwest Voices, March 27], which accuses The Seattle Times of "crying over a bunch of misfits" in its articles on last year's Capitol Hill massacre, is one of the most callous pieces of writing that has ever appeared in the newspaper.
While the value of the rave scene the victims were part of can be debated, what can't be is the joy and meaning those young people brought to the lives of their co-workers, their families and their friends.
Those people are still mourning those so-called "misfits." Maybe we all should be.
— Trevor Pyle, Mount Vernon
One for all
The two rustickeers
The media have picked up the practice of renaming celebrity couples. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez became "Bennifer." Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are known as "Brangelina." Would that make Hillary and Bill Clinton "Hillbilly"?
— Don Stern, Seattle