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Aaron Bushnell & Misplaced Martyrdom

On February 25th, 2024, Aaron Bushnell, an active-duty US Air Force member, torched himself to death in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

Watching the video, in full, is not pretty in the least. One is not left with a sense of exoticised awe as with Thích Quảng Đức – the infamous Buddhist monk who was set alight in protest to Buddhist oppression in Vietnam in 1963. Instead, for myself, at least, I felt that the whole thing was a tragic miscalculation by a man whose moral fervor seems to have been truncated by a sense of guilt and hopelessness, topped off with, perhaps, some underlying mental imbalances. 

In watching Bushnell’s video, we see he is walking to what would be his final act of political rebellion. He gives us his name, position in the US Air Force, and his moral stance: ‘I will no longer be complicit in genocide’. 

He places his phone down and walks several paces away to frame, in full, what he will do. He douses himself with some sort of liquid accelerant, pulls out a lighter of some kind and flicks the spark wheel, and… click. Nothing. Again, he flicks the wheel, and again, nothing. After a few more attempts, Bushnell gives what would be his final flick of the lighter and he is set ablaze, screaming ‘Free Palestine’ until he is physically incapable of doing so; flapping his arms in shock until his nerves burn and he feels nothing. Standing partially naked engulfed in flames, his clothes burning off and skin charred, Bushnell finally collapses to the ground. Cops run into frame, one with his gun drawn at Bushnell yelling at him to ‘stay on the ground’. A fire extinguisher is deployed, and the flames are extinguished – but to no avail. Bushnell died the following morning.

It is a horrific scene. It is desperate, confusing, sickening, and deeply tragic. I only describe some of the elements here in order to ground this discussion since too often people will abstract the concrete and leave the humanity of those involved behind. 

When Bushnell’s first flick of the lighter didn’t seal his fate, I immediately thought, ‘Perhaps God is telling you something, dude. You have a chance. You’ve been given a sign’. But Bushnell didn’t stop. He proceeded with his death. He wanted to die for something. 

And what did he die for exactly? 

Depending on where you hang out on the internet, Bushnell was either a martyr for the cause against Zionist oppression, or he was a mentally ill dupe who got brainwashed by our pathological culture and its distorters. 

I don’t know what to really think of this discourse – its clearly a false dichotomy – but watching Bushnell’s repeated attempts at killing himself – which is what every failed flick of his lighter was – struck me as like someone playing Russian Roulette with himself. His death was inevitable, and the method was extreme. 

That said, Bushnell isn’t a martyr. Sure, our modern-day definition of a martyr is ‘anyone who dies for their beliefs’, but this definition like ‘friend’ or ‘love’ doesn’t pass the Goldilocks test: it is too hot – it includes too many cases. What Bushnell committed was political suicide, not martyrdom. 

To be a martyr, someone must at least suffer persecution and death for their beliefs. Thích Quảng Đức, for instance, was a martyr because he was a Buddhist monk who, like his fellow Buddhists, suffered persecution at the hands of the Vietnamese government which, whilst in league with the French, were fashioning a Catholic establishment at the expense of the Buddhist majority. 

Bushnell wasn’t being persecuted – though one can make comments about how he, as a White man, had certain odds stacked against him because of our anti-White zeitgeist. He was, at best, making an extreme statement about a situation that he felt very strongly about. His death is more akin to those of Dominique Venner or Yukio Mishima – both men having committed suicides that were overtly, in their own words, deeply aesthetic political acts of rebellion. I don’t mean to draw too strong of a connection between Bushnell and these other two men, however. Whereas Venner and Mishima died in attempts to ‘wake up’ their own people to a doom of their own, Bushnell, at best, wanted to awaken ‘his people’ to the doom of another on the other side of the world. 

And who would Bushnell’s ‘people’ be, exactly? Whites, Christians, progressives, Democrats, people of good will, Americans? It is hard to say.  

You see, to be a martyr there must be some substrate of transcendence which the martyr can be seen as moving through via the violence suffered. I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but only to say that martyrdom is a social act that requires a shared understanding of the martyr’s sacrifice being situated in a struggle for redemption between the oppressed group, to which the martyr belongs, and the oppressor group, against which the martyrship is directed. 

Now, I know that the conservative right-wing likes to bandy about the claim that the cultural Marxists want to stratify society into oppressor versus oppressed classes to topple whichever group or institution they find obstructive to total liberation. But here is a fact: there are oppressors and oppressed. We see this clearly in the Gaza-Israel War, and Bushnell was at least right to identify that. What he was likely wrong about was that his self-immolation would do anything to change that. This will be due to the fractious nature of American society incapable of uniting in any fashion, as well as the fact that the US Ruling Class, as Bushnell identified, are bent on maintaining ‘iron clad’ support of the very thing he protested. 

What we have is an extreme and mistaken albeit sincere expression of White Saviourism rooted in White Guilt. Bushnell, from his perceived position of advantage as a White man and member of the US military, used that position to speak for the liberation of the Palestinian people and against their Israeli colonisers. 

By stating that he ‘would no longer be implicit in genocide’, Bushnell implicated himself in the genocidal acts of his Ruling Class and their coloniser allies. This, I think, is likely due to the poisonous doses of pathological altruism and anti-Whiteness he and many others have imbibed over the decades. Despite whatever lofty revolutionary political aims people may foist upon this man, this expression of guilt and desire for its assuagement likely serve as the prime motivator of his demise. 

Bushnell, and many others, may not wish to be complicit in the genocide of the Palestinians, but what of the extinction of White people in their homelands? What of the escalating drug epidemic? What of the rape and murder of women and children at the hands of immigrants? What of the sexualisation and sterilisation of children? What of the growing discord in our own lands and amongst our own people? What would the Ruling Classes have to do with these, and how would Bushnell situate himself, morally, in relation to them?

Now, I am sure that some internet sleuths are going to dig up statements of Bushnell’s that reveal him to be some sort of woke egalitarian, and we could get answers to the above questions; but this may be unfair. Speaking ill of the dead is not the point. 

Bushnell, tragically, implicated himself in the behaviour of his country’s Ruling Class and their Israeli coloniser allies and couldn’t live with that guilt. He indicted his own country’s rulers and killed himself for their crimes. It is a corrupted act of self-sacrifice based on a total miscalibration of friend and enemy. Surprisingly enough, from what I’ve seen, Bushnell doesn’t even name Israel as the coloniser ally, nor does he mention Zionism. Perhaps to do so would be a step too far… 

A spokesman for the very colonisers Bushnell decried is Ben Shapiro who took to the airwaves the day after Bushnell’s death to spit condemnation on the deceased airman.

In a video published on February 27th, 2024, Shapiro argued, with a lack of self-awareness characteristic of his people, that ‘[t]here is something deeply sick about a civilization in which large swaths of people cheer a disturbed anarchist’s self-immolation on behalf of a lie propagated by a terrorist group’. Apparently having large swaths of people cheering on the immolation of civilians by the ethno-religious state of his co-ethnics is totally kosher.

There is no self-reflection here. Instead, Shapiro reasserts that Bushnell was merely ‘disturbed’, and thus deflects from the deeper issues. Nor does Shapiro attempt to grapple with the gravity of the act under discussion. In fact, he has made similar comments regarding another dead young White person, this time one who was killed by Israeli hands: Rachel Corrie. 

Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old US peace activist who went to Gaza in 2003 to attempt to inhibit house demolitions being conducted by the Israeli military.  

In an act decried as ‘collective punishment’ by some human rights groups, the Israeli military bulldozed homes, damaged drinking water wells, and shot civilians. On March 16th, 2003, Corrie and other activists acted as human shields to disrupt the military demolitions, and while doing so Corrie was run over by an armoured Israeli bulldozer and crushed to death. 

As with Bushnell, Corrie’s death was appropriated for martyrship, and pro-Palestinian groups memorialised her around the world. Also, as with Bushnell’s death, Corrie was insulted and belittled, with our own little Ben Shapiro joining the fray calling her one of the ‘great idiots in history’.

Both Bushnell and Corrie felt like they had to do something; they no longer wished to be complicit in the crimes of their country’s leaders and their allies. They were right in their identification of the problem, but they were radically misguided in their moral partiality. 

This level of over-socialisation and guilt isn’t expected nor imposed on other groups. We can all recall the pleas to not indict Muslims, in general, for the crimes of some Muslim(s), for instance. This asymmetrical moralism is a product of our culture’s pathological altruism and anti-Whiteness. To combat this, we need to develop, elaborate, and cultivate true understandings of identity and peoplehood – and this must be rooted in an existence that is prior to all legal forms. 

We need to learn how to reach our people with a message of dignity and hope, as well as honour. That they have a people worth fighting for that exists right here, at home. If we don’t we can surely get more people like this: folks who otherwise have good wills twisted by false consciousness. Snide remarks about commies dying isn’t going to help us, nor is uncritical adulation of these people. These examples above are ones of pity, not praise, and we need to learn from them. 

No matter how mistaken Bushnell or Corrie was, our enemies are evil. We can try to fix the mistakes, but we must abhor evil. To do so, we must maintain a proper hierarchy of values. Only then can we avoid misplaced martyrdom. 

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