Skip to comments.Act by 'martyr' to protest war in Iraq a futile gesture ('JUST DAMN' ALERT)
Posted on 11/09/2006 4:03:16 AM PST by Chi-townChief
According to some who knew the man who set himself on fire along the Kennedy Expressway last Friday, it wasn't a suicide. They're calling it the act of a martyr.
The man who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself near a 25-foot-tall sculpture titled "Flame of the Millennium" was Malachi Ritscher, 52, a local musician and anti-war activist.
The medical examiner ID'd Ritscher on Wednesday through medical records. Friends were already convinced it was him. One admirer of Ritscher sent me an e-mail with the Subject Header: "It was Martrydom, Not Mental Illness."
"Do you remember the Buddhist monks who publicly burned themselves in Saigon to make an anti-war statement during the Vietnam War?" he wrote. "Something similar happened in Chicago ... [The] man who set himself aflame ... [was making] a powerful anti-war statement ... delivered just as America was making an important electoral decision about the war in Iraq.
"Not all people who kill themselves are mentally ill. Most major religious traditions, including Buddhism and Christianity, teach that death is something to be welcomed. And death in the service of a greater cause, like peace, makes you a martyr, not mentally ill."
I'm not so sure the two things are mutually exclusive.
Remembering the man Ritscher apparently penned his own obituary and posted it on his Web site. In the third person, he says he was born Mark David Ritscher in Dickensen, N.D. in 1954. He moved to Chicago in the early 1980s and changed his name to Malachi. "He was the modern-day version of the 'renaissance man,' except instead of attaining success in several fields, he consistently failed, and didn't worry too much about it," says the obit, which mentions a number of Ritscher's interests and activities, including jazz, photography, poetry, painting watercolors, concocting a hot sauce recipe, working as a licensed stationary engineer and collecting everything from books to knives to glass eyes.
"[Ritscher] participated passionately in the anti-war and free speech movement," says the obit. "He was arrested at a protest on March 20, 2003, and spent the night in jail ..."
There's also mention of a son "from whom he was estranged," and two grandchildren.
Parting words In addition to the obit, Ritscher left a long farewell note on his Web site. "My actions should be self-explanatory, and since in our self-obsessed culture words seldom match the deed, writing a mission statement would seem questionable," he wrote.
"So judge me by my actions. Maybe some will be scared enough to wake from their walking dream state -- am I therefore a martyr or a terrorist? I would prefer to be thought of as a 'spiritual warrior.' Our so-called leaders are the real terrorists in the world today, responsible for more deaths than Osama bin Laden ...
"When I hear about our young men and women who are sent off to war in the name of God and country, and who give up their lives for no rational cause at all, my heart is crushed. What has happened to my country?
"I too love God and country, and feel called upon to serve ..."
Ritscher describes an incident in 2002 in which he claims to have had a knife as he passed within close range of Donald Rumsfeld. To his "deep shame," he didn't attack. There is also discussion of God's role in the universe, the two-party system, and the Bush administration. Throughout he comes across as intelligent, passionate, bitter, angry, disoriented -- and disturbed.
Brendan Burke was a friend of Ritscher's.
"Malachi was an incredible and gentle soul," Burke said in an e-mail to me. "He was very well known in the jazz community in Chicago. He was completely dedicated to preserving a record of the Chicago avant-garde jazz scene. He would show up at jazz shows at the Empty Bottle or other venues and set up his mobile recording rig, once or twice a week, every week ... Malachi would drop off a recording [with the artist, but] he'd never take any money. He just wanted this music to be documented, and he recorded thousands of shows.
"We know Malachi was deeply committed to the anti-war movement, but he had also suffered from depression and other difficulties from time to time. We'll all miss him terribly and are really at a loss right now."
My sincere sympathies to all who knew Ritscher. But with all great respect, if he thought setting himself on fire and ending his life in Chicago would change anyone's mind about the war in Iraq, his last gesture on this planet was his saddest and his most futile.
May he find peace now.
"May he find peace now"
A nice sentiment, but given that Roeper has tried to put Buddhist fatalism with Christian hope on the same level, I think that the man in question now finds his circumstances have not cooled off.
Any chance of this catching on? (Perhaps mention to Sindy a similar act will get her on TV???)
"Ritscher describes an incident in 2002 in which he claims to have had a knife as he passed within close range of Donald Rumsfeld. To his "deep shame," he didn't attack. There is also discussion of God's role in the universe, the two-party system, and the Bush administration. Throughout he comes across as intelligent, passionate, bitter, angry, disoriented -- and disturbed. Brendan Burke was a friend of Ritscher's. "Malachi was an incredible and gentle soul," Burke said in an e-mail to me."
Crazed vanity, to suppose that anyone is going to take a look at his burning corpse and say, "Oh, this has just inspired me: let's stop all that icky fighting over there in Iraq and instead pursue Peace Studies."
Er, with the shift of political wind, something like this could be, excuse the pun, fanned into the flame of an icon.
It wasn't the heat, it was the stupidity, that killed him...
Um thanks for all that but the monk that burned himself was protesting the treatment of the monks by the south vietnamese government. They were not treated as well as the christians.
Let me get this straight. He's an anti-war activist. The anti-war party just won a major election. His reaction to that victory is to BBQ himself.
Maybe his friends didn't know him as well as they thought they did. Maybe he was a PRO-war activist, upset that Pelosi and Reid were now in charge of congress.
I wonder if he voted first.......
Actually, he cooked his own goose last Friday.
LOL - man, wish I thought of that one!!
" . . . he claims to have had a knife as he passed within close range of Donald Rumsfeld. To his "deep shame," he didn't attack."
Another hate-filled looney gone from the planet. No loss.
How dare you question popular "history" with facts! Just who do you think you are!
KFA. Kentucky Fried Activist.
What a fargin idiot.
If only he had the courage to "come out of the closet" he would not have killed himself.
Hey, maybe it will catch on.