Like being asked to make a trade-off between air and water, many of my friends in federal government are torn between their values and professionalism. Public servants who joined the Department of Homeland Security, for instance, to serve that agency’s mission protect American values are being ordered to trash all that and bar refugees and even green-card holders only because they are Muslim.
Every affected civil servant faces a unique puzzle, each one requiring considered action and wise counsel. There may be ways to negotiate preserving both values and professionalism, but often ties, they will have to create their own options in dissent.
As the stakes continue to escalate (I don’t see how they won’t), two past diplomats may provide inspiration:
Chiune Sugihara — A Japanese diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust
Encyclopedia of Jewish and Israeli history, politics and culture, with biographies, statistics, articles and documents…
I first learned about Sugihara probably nearing a decade ago while visiting a Holocaust Museum. I asked myself the question, “If I were in his position, would I have acting similarly? If I hadn’t, what pain would I have felt?”
Archer Blood — An American diplomat who sent a courageous dissent telegram about Genocide to Kissinger’s State Department
Gary Bass wrote a great book about him and the genocide in Bangladesh (Pulitzer finalist). This book highlights a reality that sometimes, you do have to pay for your values with your career.
To U.S. in '70s, a Dissenting Diplomat. To Bangladesh, 'a True Friend.'
To many, the fact that the State Department has a dissent channel was news in itself. What sort of bureaucracy would…
Please let me know of other inspiring precedents of how civil servants may navigate their positions — I’ll add them here on in a later post.
If it turns out that one feels one’s values suffocated in any case, Price Floyd’s Politico article on whether or not to resign may be useful.