--by Mike Adams
Craig and Cindy are two of the most amiable and kind people I can remember having ever met. They are humble, they know how to listen, Craig said that he has a spiritual life but is not involved in a religion. Cindy has the warmest smile and the kindest eyes; both Cindy and Craig are approachable, easy to talk to and easy to listen to. I feel blessed to have met them both and I hope to maintain a correspondence with them well into the future.
In the spring of 2003, Craig and Cindy’s lives were suddenly, drastically and irrevocably changed when their 23 year old daughter was crushed by a piece of heavy construction equipment. She died before medical help arrived and she left behind a family in heart break. You have probably heard of her, she was an idealist who died in service of her values.
On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, daughter of Cindy and Craig Corrie, a sister with two siblings, a graduate of college, a writer, a volunteer for community health and an activist for the international solidarity movement was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Palestinian town of Rafah. Rachel Corrie was obstructing the path of the bulldozer as it’s driver attempted to demolish Palestinian homes.
In the weeks prior to her death, Rachel had sent emails to her friends, supporters and her parents describing what she saw. In one email she wrote, “Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and 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 all to 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 around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. 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 our world and that we, in fact, participate in it.”
Try if you will to imagine the heart ache that Cindy and Craig Corrie must have experienced at losing their vibrant, talented, passionate and loving daughter half way around the world without warning.
In 2003 after reading a news article about Rachel Corrie, I wrote the following in a letter to the editor, which was never published, “On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie age 23 gave her life in Rafah while standing nonviolently for her convictions. She was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer which was aimed at demolishing Palestinian homes. Rachel Corrie is a war hero! The US Government should commemorate Rachel Corrie she exemplified the words of John F. Kennedy: ‘War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.’”
Everyday, the tragedy and heart break that is Rachel’s story plays out somewhere in the world. Everyday, people are killed without regard. Everyday, life is treated as cheap…and quite often, those whose hearts are broken do not react with anything like the peace and compassion that Craig and Cindy Corrie did after losing their daughter.
That heart break, which is inflicted on people the world over, might be viewed as a virus, which infects humanity and keeps perpetuating it’s self at our expense, causing some to react with love and compassion and justice, but often they react, instead, with vengeance and with violence thereby infecting others.
Whether one agrees with the political motivation of Rachel Corrie or not, we must all admit that she perceived injustice, that Rachel Corrie saw actions being perpetrated on a group of people, which caused her heart to break. Rachel was compelled to take a stand, compelled to action in an effort to ease pain and to create beauty from violence. Rachel wanted to make the world a more loving and a more livable place for all people.
Since Rachel’s death, her parents have carried on her work…they have not only worked tirelessly for a governmental investigation into the events of March 16, 2003; But they have also worked for peace between Isreal and Palestine, they have met families who Rachel lived with in Rafa, have spoken with Israeli peace activists.
Craig and Cindy endured the loss of a daughter, the loss of a part of their future…they have suffered heart break and have let their wounds motivate them towards peace and love and justice.
Upon learning of the events of March 16, 2003, my heart broke…our hearts broke…OUR HEART BROKE! We lost a courageous warrior for peace. But that’s not all…on September 11, 2001 our heart broke. Rwanda broke our heart, Bosnia broke our heart and Darfur breaks our heart every day.
Why haven’t we learned from the Holocaust? Why haven’t we learned from the genocide of Native Americans on this continent, from Slavery, from South American Death Squads, from Nagasaki…an so forth? Will humanity ever stop treating each other with such gross disregard? Will we ever stop infecting each other with hatred?
Sadly, a quick look at history and current events indicates that we will never stop…We are doomed to repeat the horror over and over again. Living in our society virtually requires that an individual participate in unspeakable cruelty. The clothes we wear are usually produced in sweatshops by people who are economically enslaved, our transportation and life styles are subsidized at the cost of our environment and our children’s future, our taxes provide military support to dictators around the world, the list goes on.
As a Unitarian Universalist, how can I possibly hold in one hand the knowledge of human cruelty while holding in the other hand a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people? Can’t we exclude from that list certain people like Slobodan Milosevic, like Joseph Stalin, like Adolph Hitler?
Are we as Unitarian Universalists being silly and naive in believing that it is possible to create a world of justice? Is there actually room for our values in real life? If I am honest, my answer to those questions is only, “I don’t know!” I don’t know if another world is actually possible…I don’t know if people can actually live in peace. My heart has been broken so many times and I don’t know if I can take it even one more time.
My problem is that I am unable to stop believing in the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice and compassion towards all; acceptance of each other and encouragement of spiritual growth; a free and responsible search for truth; democratic governance; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; And respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. I can’t turn off my faith, my hope for the realization of those values…and neither can you! As Unitarian Universalists, most of us are stuck believing in our seven principles, they inspire us, they give us hope and they fan the flames in our hearts.
Our challenge is to see if we can find the courage and strength to grow our broken heart even bigger, to fill our broken heart with even more compassion to give our broken heart to the world as a gift of love and service. Perhaps…there is the faintest chance that if we can unite in this effort and give more than we have in us…our love can crash upon the world as a great wave…washing away hatred and leaving compassion for all of humanity. Perhaps the world can mend our broken hearts and fill us with joy. Perhaps we can change the world if only we are childish enough to believe it possible and adult enough to do the necessary growth to be ready for that work. Perhaps all we have to do is listen to others as we have never listened before, welcome strangers not only into our congregations, but into our lives and into our hearts. Perhaps all we have to do is have our hearts broken again, but next time, lets cry together, lets hold each other, lets care, lets give the gifts of compassion, support and love. Lets go into the world ready for pain, ready to confront hatred with understanding and love, ready to confront suffering with compassion and ready to confront accusations with listening.