Don’t Turn Your Head: Aaron Bushnell Burned for You

Don’t Turn Your Head: Aaron Bushnell Burned for You February 26, 2024

aaron bushnell


Yesterday (February 25), a United States Airman named Aaron Bushnell posted the following message about the plight of the Palestinian people,


“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.”


The post included a link to a livestream on Twitch.


Not long thereafter, Bushnell started the livestream as he walked toward the driveway of the Israeli embassy, declaring,


“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.”


Bushnell then doused himself with a flammable and reached for a lighter.  In the background, you can hear people trying to help.  We will never know if he heard them.  After setting himself on fire, Bushnell repeatedly shouted,


“Free Palestine!  Free Palestine!  Free Palestine!”


Bushnell collapsed to the ground in agony.  One of the cruelest characteristics of people getting burned to death is that they often survive for a short time after.  Early this morning (February 26), Bushnell died from his injuries.


Extreme acts of political protest are by definition…extreme.  Most people would not even consider burning themselves to death.  Let alone for a population thousands of miles across the globe that one does not have any familial ties to.  Yet, love in its’ purest form causes us to do extreme things.  There seems to be little doubt that Aaron Bushnell loved the people of Palestine.  In the cries of the people of Gaza, Bushnell saw something that most people in the United States simply don’t or won’t…a people worth dying for.


There will be those who think that Bushnell is insane.  I don’t.  I follow a God that demands nothing less than giving our lives for others.  Regardless of his religious convictions, that is exactly what Bushnell did.  There is no greater love.


So, don’t look away.  Stare into the flames of Aaron Bushnell.  That is where love lies.  That is where hope lies.  That is where justice lies.  For, there is no greater love.


Bushnell’s call is not for us to all go out and burn ourselves to death.  It is to burn with a love for the Palestinian people that pushes us to action…pushes us to end the genocide.  Don’t you dare turn your head from such a message.  Indeed, Arron Bushnell burned for you.


#For over a decade, I’ve been a scholar of self-immolation.  From writing articles and books to even appearing in a documentary, I’ve sought to understand what these extreme acts of protest mean.  This moment is no different.  I sit with Aaron Bushnell to understand what he was trying to say.

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