Category Archives: malachi

>REACT: Burned up over the war

>We just past the first anniversary of war protester Malachi Ritscher’s self-torching. You may recall he is the guy who sat on a berm near the expressway, doused himself with some flammable liquid and lit a match. In a so-called “mission statement” he said, “If I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world.”

He has become something of a hero to a small cadre of anti war zealots, who consider his action sort of … well … noble. The anniversary was marked by a couple dozen people who gathered in the federal plaza to memorialize his flame out. Interestingly, I did not see any holding the customary memoral candles.

According to one of his sisters, Ritscher was “a casualty of the war.” She denied reports that her brother suffered from mental illness. WHAT? She denied that he was short a few cards in the deck when he lit that match?

Certainly, his death was tragedy. If we are motivated to use his death as a call for action, it should not based on his opposition to the war, it should be to address whatever madness caused him to kill himself. He may have chosen the war has his excuse, but it was not his reason. Hundreds of thousands of people have protested the war … and millions are burned up over it – figuratively only. But, Ritscher is the only person who thought that turning himself into a human torch was a meaningful means of influencing American policy. In that regard, his death was in vain. His impact nil. The opposition movement is so large that his contribution is imperceptible. My god, Cindy Sheehan was only marginally relevant, and she was in the press for months. The only result of Ritscher’s act of desperation is one less voice in the opposition choir.

It does not take professional analyst to know Ritscher suffered some sort of mental illness. No one ignites themselves for any rational reason whatsoever. To oppose violence through an excruciatingly violent act is not the work of a sane person. Not debatable.

I have always believed that suicide, for any reason, is the ultimate selfish act — without even the opportunity to beg forgiveness. It is illegal. It is immoral. Under the pretense of caring about humanity, Ritscher cared nothing about the feelings of his loved ones. He cared nothing about men, women AND children who had the misfortune of witnessing his horrific death. He cared nothing for all the good he might have done in the world in the years to come. He wanted to check out, but wanted to leave a little guilt trip in his wake – since he was leaving nothing else. His only contribution was to end any further contributions.

Jennifer Diaz, one of the organizers of the small memorial said his act “speaks for itself.” We can all agree on that, but not likely will we agree what it says. She concluded by saying that Ritscher had “made himself into an icon.” No, Jennifer. He made himself into a Roman candle.

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