For Peace

For Peace

If you haven’t heard of Aaron Bushnell by now, please know that even the blurred video is disturbing. Google with caution.

I’m having a hard time reconciling US political rhetoric about the preciousness of life with the willingness of some to dismiss what’s happening in Gaza. 

And by “hard time,” I mean I can’t contort my brain—which is exceptionally good at rationalizing when it wants to be—into imagining a scenario where a single, non-fascist human being can hold both thoughts at the same time without necessarily imploding.

Yeah, I witness cognitive dissonance all the time. But living in a world where a group of overlapping people can condone the genocide of a people’s children while also giving preference to embryos, calling some children filth, and trying desperately to deny other kids food?

What strikes me about Airman Aaron Bushnell is the singular sense of purpose he had, a desire for the peace and freedom of the people he saw being oppressed.

But even NPR reported yesterday a bizarre recounting of the haunting news, suggesting they couldn’t be sure what Bushnell was on about, exactly.

NPR reported Sunday: “The Israeli embassy in DC said none of its staff were injured.”  And “The Metropolitan Police department has since declared [Bushnell’s] vehicle of any suspicious activity.”

The article has been updated since I first read it, but I still don’t understand what they’re hedging for without putting on some very cynically filtered shades. They added, “As of Monday morning, NPR was not able to independently verify the man’s motives.”

What?

There are Bushnell’s statements, social media posts. Graphic video that he streamed to Twitch.

Particularly harrowing and authenticating is how a cop pointed a gun at Bushnell while an EMT yelled that he needed more fire extinguishers, not guns.

The entirety of the internet knew exactly what happened within minutes.

I don’t have well composed thoughts about self-immolation as a form of protest and frankly my mind might not even be capable. But a Facebook post I saw attributed to the airman reiterates a common refrain:

“Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”

I am sorry Aaron Bushnell won’t get to see the peace he sacrificed himself for.

Emily’s Introductory Rules for New Activists

Emily’s Introductory Rules for New Activists

This post is for my friend Angela.

The more I write about activism, the more you’ll understand how loosely I use the word “rules.” But here’s something to get us all started.

1. Embrace the Discomfort

Being an activist is not easy. It requires doing things outside your comfort zone, taking a stand against powerful oppressors and oppressive systems, getting the side eye from people you love and respect, and confronting ignorance, both willful and accidental.

When these things happen and you start to lose confidence in what you’re doing, when you start thinking maybe you’re being too pushy or too bold and you’re doing yourself and your cause a disservice—please realize these feelings are signs you’re doing it right. You’re pushing for change but still able to evaluate if what you’re doing is helpful or harmful. That’s the sweet spot.

2. Reject Absolute Binary Positions

People who insist that saying Black Lives Matter means you can’t respect white lives and love indigenous people are just wrong.

When I tell my mother “I love you” my husband doesn’t pitch a fit and divorce me because suddenly I no longer love him.

I think as activists we are already sensitive to absurdities like these. But false binaries come from within social movements and organizations too. In college, for example, a fellow activist theorized that our group should discount religious organizations because they harbor oppressors and encourage “othering.”

Your allies are everywhere, and finding them in unlikely places is exhilarating. However, when we accept oversimplified narratives about very complex issues, we decrease our chances of finding them.

3. Prep for Exhaustion

Before you really dig in, I want you to prepare for the inevitable exhaustion. Being an activist can be physically exhausting or mentally exhausting or emotionally exhausting or any combination of these.

Identify the things that make you feel good and help you recharge and be ready to run to them when you need them.

My first-tier aid is music. I have a couple of playlists—one called “Empowering” that includes Shakira’s “Try Everything” and P!nk’s “Fuckin’ Perfect.” Then I have another playlist called “Relax and Soothe” that includes songs like John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Carrie Newcomer’s “Leaves Don’t Drop (They Just Let Go).”

Humor is another great healer. I thank God for the John Olivers and Amy Poehlers and Dave Chappelles and Bill Hickses of the world whose work keeps us woke but laughing.

Okay, there’s a lot more to cover. Stay tuned!

Pin It on Pinterest