Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentile and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For the appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies on insular Tahiti; full of peace and joy, but encompassed by al the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!
These words, originally written in 1851 by Herman Melville, described the serenity of land surrounded by the hideous dangers of the unrelenting ocean. While Melville uses this imagery to talk about the soul, it is easily applied to the Congress of the United States. Brian Baird is representative of a small district in the state of Washington and last year he and fellow congressman Kieth Ellison from Minnesota visited the Gaza strip to see the wreckage caused by Israel. After that trip he promised to do something about the suffering in the tiny, blockaded area. He stood in front of Congress; he showed pictures; he played videos; he spoke out against Resolution 867 (the house resolution that condemned the Goldstone Report). He is by far the most vocal member of the United States government to see the injustice that is a daily fact of life in Gaza and the West Bank. His website makes his stance on Gaza very clear – he thoroughly condemns the anti-Semitism of some in Gaza and he understands that Israel has the right to protect himself, but he see the irony of the United States, a country built on freedom and a strong moral backbone, giving Israel the freedom to abuse Gaza.
Now Mr. Baird is arguing that the US should cut aid to Israel if the blockade around Gaza is not lifted. There is no chance of this passing the in House, but I suppose it is a good sign that Mr. Baird is suggesting it. I only wonder what is the price for speaking out against Israeli actions. Earlier this week, Hannah Rosenthal got slammed for speaking in favor or JStreet, a more liberal alternative to the powerful AIPAC lobby. Remember how Chas Freeman was forced with withdraw his name from consideration for the chairman of the National Intelligence Council because some stances he took vis-a-vis Israel?
Well Mr. Baird has decided not to run for reelection in 2010. While I have no doubt that Mr. Baird received political harassment for his stance on Gaza, I have to hope that his decision not to run next year was indeed a personal one. That being said, the United States needs more brave politicians who are willing to stand up for what is right. While we barely knew Brian Baird, his ability to speak the truth made him an island in the middle of disgusting sea of self-serving politicians.
An interview from Al Jazeera, via Ma’an News: