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Aaron Bushnell ¡Presente! - Poster of the Week

[burning monk]

Artist Unknown


Place Made Unknown, Circa 1960s


Aaron Bushnell was an active U.S. Air Force Senior Airman and aspiring software engineer with a deeply rooted sense of justice. He joined the U.S. Air Force to travel and meet different people, and in his spare time he forged deep friendships with his unhoused neighbors through the San Antonio Care Collective. On Sunday, February 25, 2024, he committed self-immolation in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In a live-streamed message to the world, his final words were:

My name is Aaron Bushnell. I am an active duty member of the United States Air Force and I will no longer be complicit in genocide. I'm about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine, at the hands of their colonizers, it's not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal… Free Palestine!

Bushnell’s radical act of protest is the second case of self-immolation in protest of Israel’s genocidal acts on Gaza since October 7th, the first being in Atlanta, Georgia on December 1, 2023. The woman, who wrapped herself in a Palestinian flag, is still unidentified, and the story was quickly swept under the rug.

Self-immolation is rare, and one of the most radical acts of protest a person can perform. Perhaps the most famous instance of self-immolation, as shown in this week’s poster of the week, was Thích Quảng Đức’s in June of 1963. The Vietnamese monk set himself on fire in a busy Saigon street to protest U.S.-backed dictator Ngô Đình Diệm’s persecution of Buddhists in South Viet Nam. Thích Quảng Đức remained calm while being engulfed in flames, while his fellow monks encircled him to protect his protest from the police. This event was photographed by Malcolm Browne, and the images shook the world.

Several Americans also self-immolated during the course of the Viet Nam War to protest the U.S.’s rampage across the country, including Quakers Alice Herz and Norman Morrison, Catholic Roger La Porte, Unitarian Florence Beaumont, and George Winne, Jr. Many of those who self-immolated were deeply religious. The late Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh explained that those who self-immolate were not committing suicide, rather they were sacrificing themselves to move “the hearts of the oppressors, and [call] the attention of the world to the suffering endured… It is done to wake us up.”

Bushnell’s final Facebook message to the world was: 

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.

Aaron Bushnell




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