The Young Woman Who Fired Joe Biden

Published: Tue 2 Apr 2024 04:36 PM
When Middle East analyst Annelle Sheline turned her back on her dream job at the US State Department and resigned in protest this week at the US war on Gaza, she joined an elite group of human beings: those who have the courage of their convictions. Socrates would have been proud of her. So will her daughter.
‘I no longer wanted to be affiliated with this administration,’ she said in denouncing the US government’s active role in the commission of genocide in Gaza. She highlighted the administration's failure to follow US law, specifically the requirement that when a foreign military is credibly accused of gross human rights violations, the US must no longer provide weapons to them; and the Foreign Assistance Act which states that when a foreign government is blocking US humanitarian aid, military assistance must be stopped. The Biden administration is dodging all this.
Annelle told Democracy Now she was haunted by the final social media posts of Aaron Bushnell the US serviceman who self-immolated earlier this year in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington in protest at the genocide. On the day of his death Aaron Bushnell posted:
"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."
It was the only moment in the Democracy Now interview when emotion got the better of Sheline. Recalling Bushnell and their shared horror at Gaza, she tearfully said:
“That post spoke to me and many people who had to really look at what they were doing. I have a young daughter and I thought: in the future if she were to ask me, ‘What were you doing when this was happening? You were at the State Department?’ I want to be able to tell her that I didn't stay silent.”
By resigning, Sheline was acting in line with the highest values of world culture – a sacrifice worthy of Easter.
The history of all cultures records and esteems conduct such as those of Annelle Sheline. In reality, it is a preciously small band of brothers and sisters who make it into those ranks. The courage to oppose is older than Antigone. Socrates said that the most precious of one’s possessions was virtue: the ability to make decisions that are in accord with your highest values, no matter the cost. Shakespeare in his time talked of such actions as the purest jewel that mortal times afford: doing what it takes to maintain a spotless reputation.
In a more contemporary setting: NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick lost his fabulously lucrative job when he famously “took a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem to protest injustice. Nike eventually ran an ad that was simply Kaepernick’s face with the caption: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Here in New Zealand, there is the example of a handful of All Blacks who refused to play rugby against Apartheid South Africa’s Springboks.
Sheline said something else that we would do well to reflect on. The damage to national reputation from siding with Israel:
“Not only are these policies devastating the people of Gaza, but I think they’re also devastating the US image in the world. This administration came in promising to rebuild American diplomacy and America’s moral leadership after the Trump administration, but so many of these issues that the administration said were so important – including human rights – seem to be less important to this administration than the US-Israel relationship.”
So, what can we lesser mortals do when confronted, as we are, with the crime of crime – genocide – being committed with the active support of our governments?
In New Zealand Maori culture there is the perfect phrase for this: ahakoa he iti he pounamu. Your actions may be small but if they are made of pounamu – jade (virtue) – then they are precious. Each of us can do something small. We can’t say, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I don’t know what to do”. Like Annelle Sheline we need to think of how we will answer our own child or grandchild when asked: “What did you do when the Israelis and the Americans were committing genocide? Did you do anything to support the Palestinians?” Ahakoa he iti he pounamu.

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