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Iraq suicide
November 8, 2006 2:39 PM   Subscribe

A man set himself on fire in Chicago last Friday morning in protest at the war in Iraq. He left a suicide note. But you know that don't you because its been all over the media?
posted by bobbyelliott (152 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meh. I don't see why J. Random Crackpot should get a headline for offing himself, no matter what the reason.
posted by Target Practice at 2:42 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


.
posted by zenzizi at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2006


Ditto Target Practice.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yep, totally failing to give a shit here.

Now, if Karl Rove had SET him on fire. Then a shit I would give.
posted by InnocentBystander at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2006


I heard about this via my pal Spencer's blog. Seems he knew the decedent.
posted by mwhybark at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2006


I guess we only pay attention when a monk does it?
posted by ktoad at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


I saw the headline. ONE LESS IDIOT THANKS TO MEANINGLESS SUICIDE
posted by acetonic at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2006


What's the point of protesting if no one knows of your protest?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2006


InnocentBystander

I find it more likely that Dick Cheney would set him on fire.

And then act like it was the other guy's fault.
posted by Target Practice at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2006


This post was deleted because: NEWSFILTER grind grind grind grind
posted by koeselitz at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2006


I wouldn't say it's been all over the news, but it certainly is there if you do a proper search.
posted by oaf at 2:51 PM on November 8, 2006


Well, he's not alone at least.
posted by boo_radley at 2:51 PM on November 8, 2006


i notice that he also wrote his own obiturary.
posted by punkbitch at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2006


he didn't give advance notice ... why would the news media or anyone else be prepared?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2006


Christ, what an asshole!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:02 PM on November 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


He seems like he was sad. Just read his auto-bio.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:02 PM on November 8, 2006


His self-written obituary is actually rather poignant.

It's worth a read. Sounds likes a sad, interesting guy -- who took a turn for the crazy at the very end.
posted by turducken at 3:08 PM on November 8, 2006


Jeez that bio was depressing.

I reckon people dont really kill themselves because of their political stand. They do so because they are miserable and tormented, and maybe making such a statement is their one last chance to be someone they can be proud of.

Poor guy.
posted by elendil71 at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ditto elendil71.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


...uh, yeah, what everyone else said (foiled by slow internets again!)
posted by turducken at 3:11 PM on November 8, 2006


Well, thank goodness he used gasoline and not sticks of dynamite. Maybe if we honor this guy we can switch to "Suicide Burners" in the middle east.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2006


He was the modern day version of a 'renaissance man', except instead of attaining success in several fields, he consistently failed, and didn't really worry too much about it.

I laughed out loud at this sentence. Does this make me a terrible person?
posted by xmutex at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2006


I'm actually amazed at this- I live in Chicago, and today was the first I heard about it.

I find it interesting that the responses here seem primarily of the "random nutjob offs self" variety. I won't speculate on his mental state- I only find it interesting that in 1963, Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation was key in mobilizing resistance to Ngo Dinh Diem's regime in Viet-Nam, and the resulting press coverage (particularly of Madame Nhu's response) shocked many overseas and contributed to the withdrawl of US support from Diem (although, unfortunately not from the war).

OK, his bio is pretty depressing, but in this day and age are we less shocked by an act of this nature? Does his personal background change the content of this act? I'm acutally curious on these points.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:15 PM on November 8, 2006


That wasn't "making a stand" and it's not going to change anyone's opinion. How selfish and foolish.

Too bad he didn't wait to see how the elections turned out.
posted by kdar at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2006


Reading that red-on-black obituary sure burns your retinas!


I wonder what kind of real estate he's bought in Vancouver?
posted by Flashman at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2006


I laughed out loud at this sentence. Does this make me a terrible person?
Well no, but all a yall are pretty flippin' hard. Poor Malachi.

.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2006


Sounds like he would've been an interesting guy though.
.
posted by Flashman at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2006


So we have this guy to blame the last four years of Rumsfeld:

at 8:05 one morning in 2002 I passed Donald Rumsfeld on Delaware Avenue and I was acutely aware that slashing his throat would spare the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people. I had a knife clenched in my hand, and there were no bodyguards visible; to my deep shame I hesitated, and the moment was past.

What a maroon.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2006


Dibs on the glass-eye collection.
posted by HyperBlue at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2006


I think eledil71 has a good point, although I also think there are cases where extreme political gestures are perhaps more purely selfless than what seems to be the case here.

One factor that has kept me from suicide over the years is that I have been unable to think of a method that would be both useful to society and suitably entertaining. A trite, cliché suicide would be even more depressing to me than the alternative. In other words, intellectual snobbery has saved my life on a regular basis. Vive la arrogance!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2006


.
posted by al_fresco at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2006


Darwinism at work. Someone should slap one of those nifty fish w/feet magnets on his casket.
posted by dsquid at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2006


Has nobody heard of Norman Morrison?
posted by runkelfinker at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2006


Read the suicide note. An intelligent and sincere man is in despair and deep depression over his feelings about the war.

All expressions of complete heartlessness only completely reflect their source.

Yesterday's election was repudiation of such utter cynicism.

posted by Twang at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2006


Damn, I am truly appalled at the level of callousness I'm seeing here, and I'm a hard-hearted bastard by most accounts. I'm pretty much with TheWhiteSkull here - surely this is the most extreme statement any human being can make in protest, and as such, doesn't it deserve just a fraction more consideration than the immediate impulse to snark?

Damn.

.
posted by kcds at 3:37 PM on November 8, 2006


.

Most of the responses here have been something that Metafilterians seem to hate most: predictable.
posted by jiawen at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2006


Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest of the Soviet occupation that crushed the Prague Spring. The Quaker Norman Morrison burned himself to death in 1965 outside of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's office in protest of the Vietnam War. In fact, Wikipedia has an interesting list of people who committed suicide by self-immolation as a form of political protest.
posted by jonp72 at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


You guys heard about that kid who suicided at Ground Zero a while back, right?
posted by modernerd at 3:40 PM on November 8, 2006


I disagree. I think this does happen, like that monk someone mentioned before or this guy.

When I heard about the Korean man doing it I thought it was going to be the beginning of a trend. Now reading here that all of you are just saying that the guy today was selfish and stupid makes me feel... I don't know. Not good. It doesn't feel good.
posted by micayetoca at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2006


I usually am moved by such self-sacrifice for an ideal, but this leaves feeling annoyed rather than moved.
posted by Falconetti at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2006


With the exception of suicide bombings (which, IMHO are not suicide in the traditional sense, they're suicide in the kamikaze sense), suicides tend not to get much press coverage, period. Why? Many worry about the whole copycat and/or contagion effect -- you see this in college communities and families too. It seems like nobody wants to talk about suicide, regardless of the reason.

I'm sad for Mr. Ritscher and I pity him -- suicide is essentially a selfish act (I've been too close to a few, been too close for comfort in my own mind, and worked an overnight hotline, so I've seen a bit). I'm not faulting him for it but I refuse to praise it and I can't respect it. Reading the note, it's clear that the war and loss of life was a focus for his already existing illness.

So to say that it's solely an act of protest against the war is foolish, IMHO and it serves to continue the refusal to see suicide for the lonely, desperate, pained, selfish act that it is -- just like the press and the common community response to suicide.
posted by incongruity at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2006


Sad.
posted by krix at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2006


suicided at Ground Zero

I remember something about it.

BUT

Fire is one hell of a nasty way to die. and I'm not shocked to see the snarking or calling the guy 'an idiot'. Not my reaction to the guy setting himself on fire...mine was 'he needs a better publisist'. Example - today is when he made wikipeda. If he had a better publist (or someone to talk him out what he did) they could have made a movie of his final words, then the act of setting himself on fire and put it up on youtube. Put up the story on Wikipedia.

It doesn't sound like he knew anyone who would let him torch himself and just stand by documenting the event.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:56 PM on November 8, 2006


How selfish and foolish

Yeah, really. That selfish motherfucker.
posted by atrazine at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2006


I am amazed how many people think they know me, even people who I have never talked with. Many people will think that I should not be able to choose the time and manner of my own death. My position is that I only get one death, I want it to be a good one. Wouldn't it be better to stand for something or make a statement, rather than a fiery collision with some drunk driver? Are not smokers choosing death by lung cancer? Where is the dignity there? Are not the people the people who disregard the environment killing themselves and future generations? Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade - my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade. There might be some who say "it's a coward's way out" - that opinion is so idiotic that it requires no response. From my point of view, I am opening a new door.
?
posted by zennie at 3:57 PM on November 8, 2006


Untreated mental illness is a terrible thing and it's a shame that so many people fall through the cracks, but other than that who gives a shit?
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on November 8, 2006


kcds

Not really. The way I see it, the best sign that someone's less than sane, assuming they live in normal conditions, is if they kill themselves. The opinions of the less-than-sane do not hold a lot of weight, and it does not seem to me to help my cause any by pointing and somebody who was willing to kill themselves in one of the most painful possible ways and say, "See! Now you know I'm right!"

Now, if you want to argue that it's wrong to make fun of the mentally ill, then fine, but that's (1) something of a slippery slope and (2) an entirely different discussion.
posted by Target Practice at 4:01 PM on November 8, 2006


I think it's pretty obvious this guy's suicide had very little to do with the war. He was depressed, and there but for the grace of therapy, Prozac, and MetaFilter go a lot of equally interesting, arty, under-employed folks.

That said, there's a long history of off-kilter people committing similar "political" acts. I'd get off the monk tip and start looking at examples like Squeaky Fromme and John Hinckley.
posted by turducken at 4:02 PM on November 8, 2006


Considering all the things one might do, that many of us would like to do or wish we dared to do (e.g., just one example of thousands that a moment's thought will produce, hitchhike to Darfur and stand between the Jangaweed and their latest victims) that we don't do because of not being ready to die for the privilege of doing the deed, it's hard to relate to merely killing oneself to make a statement. It's very hard not to think that what the perpetrator/victim was mainly interested in was dying, due to extraneous personal issues, and the statement was no more than the occasion or excuse. That's as un-cold as I can make it.
posted by jfuller at 4:08 PM on November 8, 2006


atrazine: "How selfish and foolish

Yeah, really. That selfish motherfucker.
"

Damn straight he was selfish. Suicide ends all of the off-ee's pain and anguish - and it leaves those who knew and loved and cared for him or her devastated with guilt and sorrow and confusion. They frequently eat themselves alive with self blame, trying to figure out what they did to contribute to such a horrible thing, or what they didn't do to keep it from happening.
posted by John Smallberries at 4:15 PM on November 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


The way I see it, the best sign that someone's less than sane, assuming they live in normal conditions, is if they kill themselves.
posted by Target Practice at 4:01 PM PST


And what about people who send others into a location where they are targets for other people's shooting? How about the people who willingly sign up to enter a location where live ammuition firing/roadside bombs may lead to your death/injury? How about signing a piece of paper that authorizes the death of someone else?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:15 PM on November 8, 2006


I don't know, Ashlar, what about those things?

Oh, right, they're completely different situations.
posted by Target Practice at 4:16 PM on November 8, 2006


it's hard to relate to merely killing oneself to make a statement.

After one of the laws were passed one of the 'liberal bloggers' was claiming that "he didn't do enough" to "stop the evil". The question was asked 'what were you to do, kill yourself in some action'? - no answer in the same way there was no answer to taking actions that would end him up in jail,. bankrupting his family.

Where SHOULD one stop in trying to stop injustice? Voting? Writing a letter?

This guy felt he had nothing to give but his actual life.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:30 PM on November 8, 2006


Oh, right, they're completely different situations.
posted by Target Practice at 4:16 PM


Ok, exactly how?

All are decisions that result in the death of a human, are preventable and can be argured to be a 'waste of a life'.

But go ahead and show how they are completely different.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:38 PM on November 8, 2006


Wow, I didn't expect to see a snarkfest here. I mean, this guy was clearly in pain, but his writings don't read like psychotic ravings.

Here's a theory. We are moved by the figure of the Unknown Man or Woman, self-immolating and thus embodying utter frustration at some terrible set of circumstances. That person's unknown-ness creates space for us to ascribe meaning and so elevate their decision. But when we see a self-pitying blog at the same time, the space is gone, filled with biographical details, the deceased is no longer every-person, and we therefore snark. Well, I didn't. But plenty of you did.
posted by imperium at 4:39 PM on November 8, 2006


I think it's pretty interesting that being told to die or get mutilated (like many of those kids who are surviving Iraq minus brain matter and limbs) by the military is honorable, cool and apparently not crazy at all, while making an individual decision to die based on absolute moral principle is supposed to be crazy.


I don't know, Ashlar, what about those things?

Oh, right, they're completely different situations.


Well yes. Rich people tell you to do one, wheras the other happens when you actually take responsibility for your actions.

Oh, but I forgot. Joining the army is Special and Patriotic. The key thing about this difference is that it gets emphasized more as a nation state abuses its own troops. Way back, Gen. Smedley Butler noted that one of the key signs of corporatist, corrupt abuse of military force in his day was the transition from a military that viewed itself as a trade to one that emphasizes medals, honors and, of course, the glory of dying like a dog to meet the fleeting policy objectives of one's so-called betters.

Yeah -- that's waaaaaay better than setting yourself on fire for peace.
posted by mobunited at 4:41 PM on November 8, 2006


Gotta get this off my chest. I feel bad for anyone suffering from such long-term despair that suicide becomes attractive. He clearly wasn't an idiot, and I'm sure many people valued his presence in their lives. I feel sad for him and for anyone who was close to him.

But his act also makes me feel angry. The monk was different. A monk is, presumably, as selfless and ego-less as one can get in this life. If anyone can make a decision to self-immolate as an act political protest with utter clarity, a monk can. For that reason, I've always found the monk's act deeply moving. I can see how the monk's act motivated people.

Anyone other than a monk -- I question their ability to make such a decision with clarity, free of ego, illusions of grandeur, etc.

And, in the larger picture, I think it's incredibly dangerous to uphold acts of self-martyrdom as a kind of ultimate political gesture.
posted by treepour at 4:51 PM on November 8, 2006


I knew of Malachi (but never met him). I know people that knew him. He did a hell of a lot of good for the music scene in Chicago, and further afield. He was an excellent and well respected live sound recordist, loved music and musicians with a fucking passion. He was a genuine, thoughtful man that simply couldn't bear injustice and, being utterly impotent in the face of life's shit slinging, just gave up. It's heartbreaking and depressing to come in here to pay my respects and see so much 'ha ha, who gives a fuck. What a loser'.

. for Malachi
. for the people who point and laugh
posted by nylon at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2006 [3 favorites]


Damn straight he was selfish.

I'm not sure I understand this. I can sort of see the logical argument in saying that it was a selfish act, but I don't see how you can look at a guy whom you've never met before and don't know beyond an auto-bio and say that he was a selfish person because he took his own life. We all act selfishly at times. Is suicide 100% proof that someone was a "selfish person"?
posted by Stauf at 5:11 PM on November 8, 2006


Does anyone know what his MeFi member name is?
posted by matimer at 5:13 PM on November 8, 2006


But his act also makes me feel angry
posted by treepour at 4:51 PM PST


Perhaps that is exaclty what he wanted....and hoped the anger would prompt action?

At a minimum, his actions are being talked about...and are about as useful at ending the various violence.

If setting himself on fire 'wasn't the answer' - what IS the answer to the problem he sought to solve?

I think it's incredibly dangerous to uphold acts of self-martyrdom as a kind of ultimate political gesture.

"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" (I'd track down someone from history who willinging walked into the line of fire, but meh...then I'd feel like tracking down how that act had follow-on actions and that smacks of PhD work, and arguing on the Blue isn't worth that effort to not sway anyone anyway.)
posted by rough ashlar at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2006


Oh, and I definitely don't understand the "idiot" charge. I mean, he wanted to kill himself. He succeeded. Wouldn't he at least have to fail at the attempt to make him an "idiot"?
posted by Stauf at 5:16 PM on November 8, 2006


I find it interesting that the responses here seem primarily of the "random nutjob offs self" variety... in 1963, Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation was key in mobilizing resistance to Ngo Dinh Diem's regime in Viet-Nam, and the resulting press coverage (particularly of Madame Nhu's response) shocked many overseas and contributed to the withdrawal of US support from Diem (although, unfortunately not from the war).

Ditto. But the press doesn't give a shit any more, and consequently neither do the sheep.

.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2006


Don't be too harsh on all the callous people here. Suicide really freaks most people out. And this is Metafilter.

Still, this guy would've been better off moving to Canada. The system feeds on death and his own death will contribute to the problem. Americans who read this will tend to either reject the act via a well practiced, cowardly cynicism or take it as a confirmation of the lunacy of the anti-war advocates. When you don't value human life and agency then the entire concept of sacrifice is simply inaccessible. Slaves who are by nature greedy and ever-afraid simply cannot understand an action motivated from selfishness. They will always project their own failings on to the victim, imagine some dastardly political motivation, and confidently label him as selfish -- ie one of them.
posted by nixerman at 5:29 PM on November 8, 2006


MetaFilter: Meh.
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on November 8, 2006


Lots of creepy people on the blue tonight.

I read his obit and I'm sad for him, he seemed a complex person and I'd have liked him if I'd known him. Hope it makes at least one person sit up and take notice.

.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:31 PM on November 8, 2006


The loss of a friend and talented artist should be mourned, but suicide for any implied reason should never be placed on any kind of pedestal. Much like the media frenzy over acts of outrageous gun violence, it simply glorifies the act in the minds of others who comtemplate it.
posted by CynicalKnight at 5:32 PM on November 8, 2006


Self-immolation is, to quote Wikipedia, considered to be among the most powerful symbolic acts of sacrifice.

Considering how 'left-leaning' Metafilter is, what does it say that so many shun this man's last act, this most extreme act of sacrifice? Presumably it wasn't that the stated inspiration (the war in Iraq) is not considered worthy of such sacrifice?

Is it because, being depressed, his life had reduced significance, the sacrifice lessened somehow?
posted by stinkycheese at 5:32 PM on November 8, 2006


Here's a theory. We are moved by the figure of the Unknown Man or Woman, self-immolating and thus embodying utter frustration at some terrible set of circumstances...

Nah. The snark got started because of the "OMG suicide but THE NEW$ MEDIA are ignoring it! I AM SO RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNANT I COULD VOMIT!" tone the post struck.

Lots of people kill themselves. It's always tragic, but rarely newsworthy except among their family and circle of friends. And, frankly, I don't think we need to take his word for why he killed himself. All we really know is that he was in pain, but it's quite likely that he himself didn't really know why he was in pain, or that his pain was without any real cause in the external world (though very real itself). It's not like suicidal ideation goes hand in hand with really sound cognition or accurate self-perception.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:34 PM on November 8, 2006


I regret making fun of this guy earlier. He was clearly disturbed, which isn't funny. I think I laughed at it because serious mental illness is so unsettling.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 5:39 PM on November 8, 2006


The OP seems to imply some sort of sinister plot to suppress this news. Karl Rove strikes again!

Actually, the new media in general don't cover spectacular suicides because they don't want to encourage copycats. There's really little more to it than that.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:45 PM on November 8, 2006


That should have been "news media".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:45 PM on November 8, 2006


Reading his last words over, it sure seems to me like there was a whole lot of lucidity there - less so any, "serious mental illness".

Saying "anyone who does (whatever) is clearly a (crazy person)", and - by inference - therefore I don't have to take them or what they say seriously, seems like a real shortcut to critical thinking, particularly when they've actually taken time to spell it all out for you in their note.

Let's see...

Everyone who pays taxes has blood on their hands.

To the rest of the world we are cowards...we the people bear complete responsibility for all that will follow, and it won't be pretty.

It is time to let go of primitive and magical beliefs, and enter the age of personal responsibility.

Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade - my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade.

The upcoming elections are not a solution - our two party system is a failure of democracy.

Consider that the French people actually have a voice, because they are willing to riot when the government doesn't listen to them.

There's no sugar coating on this pill, and a lot of people are spitting it out.

.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:53 PM on November 8, 2006 [5 favorites]


the Mandal Commission created an uproar in India because of the same situation. not to mention all the others
posted by infini at 6:16 PM on November 8, 2006


Stauf writes Wouldn't he at least have to fail at the attempt to make him an 'idiot'?

No, that would make him a suicide chump.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:19 PM on November 8, 2006


He was sick. Clearly, he needed help. Alas, he didn't get it.
.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:29 PM on November 8, 2006


Stauf: "Damn straight he was selfish.

...but I don't see how you can look at a guy whom you've never met before and don't know beyond an auto-bio and say that he was a selfish person because he took his own life. We all act selfishly at times. Is suicide 100% proof that someone was a "selfish person"?
"

You are right, Stauf, and I phrased things badly. What I meant to say was he committed a selfish act - and what I should have said (and meant) is that it could have been a selfish act, because all too frequently the devastation it leaves in its wake is never given consideration.

But not always, and I did not know him and had no right to judge him. I snapped into judgmental mode because I was catching a tone of Heathers hippie-guidance-counselor "Suicide is a beautfiul expression of emotion" crap. It is NEVER that. It is an ugly and agonzing thing for everyone involved, and I am sorry for the pain that drives people to such an awful measure.
posted by John Smallberries at 6:32 PM on November 8, 2006


For the record, I'm on the 'Fuck the callous assholes who mock this' side of things.

Again, that's fuck you, you guys.
posted by Alex404 at 6:34 PM on November 8, 2006


The OP seems to imply some sort of sinister plot to suppress this news. Karl Rove strikes again!

More like bad Google-fu strikes again.
posted by oaf at 6:34 PM on November 8, 2006


i have to say that i find this incredibly heartbreaking; and i don't know why i'm particularly compelled to say so—outside maybe some measure of defense or understanding for this guy in light of some rather despicable and self-satisfied commentary; and particularly because i'm not going to say it well enough, and well-said or not, i'm inviting a beating—but there was an extended period of time in which i lived dangerously close to where this guy ended up—to a point, in my recollection, where i extensively examined the moral question of whether the statement one makes by such an act is diminished if one were to, say, tranquilize oneself in order to endure and not interrupt the intention.

what i relate to in what this guy says (absent the god stuff, which doesn't resonate for me) amounts to frustration with a mismatch between what we are and what we tell ourselves we are. i hit a time when i started reading a good deal of media, cultural, and political criticism—zinn, chomsky, postman, gitlin, mander, dery, etc.—at first just a casual interest, a kind of fascination with seeing things a bit differently than the popular notion or the line i was taught. of course, (unfortunately, still the case) i was not intellectually equipped to assess the quality of what i was reading or to put it into sufficient or accurate context, much less the knowledge of how to put such theory to practical use in my own life (which i found myself compelled to do). i don't know exactly how long it took—i mean, not overnight or anything—but over time the curiosity took a darker and more hopeless turn. i got buried in it; truth wasn't truth anymore.

i don't know that i could distill it into a conclusion, but to try: first, it was the impression that as individuals and as a political body, we lie to ourselves in a rather disturbing way; that where once the idea was that there are ideals that one attempts to live up to but can never actually attain, we had convinced ourselves that we had become that ideal, and we would take the strongest measures to maintain this delusion, that we would deny reality itself. (paralleled by how i've come to see how religion plays out a lot of ways—especially where i grew up in the south—that where once jesus and the saints and such were ideals to strive toward, today believers are convinced that they have achieved the ideal—reborn and saved for eternity—which confers a status of being right and pure that allows one to condemn others for not being so; or how bush rationalizes that because his duty is to uphold the constitution, whatever action he decides to take is inherently constitutional)...add to that the fact the belief that there are people who understand and see the depth of the dishonesty, but who opt to use it for their advantage, implementing the false languages of advertising and politics...and so on, to unabomber-ish paranoia and beyond...and, of course, the self-contradiction in mourning our failure to meet an ideal that was a lie in the first place...

so i grew more dissatisfied with that, and got deeper in with the question: how does one live in a way to break out of this kind of self-deception; how does one live in a way such that one does not participate in the corruption of the system. how many times do we read/hear 'if you don't like it, you can always leave'...well, can you? as an american, i am my country's actions; as a consumer, i am consuming disproportionately, at the expense of some other unfortunate population; as a human, i fear what happens if i drop out and don't play the game. where can you move to get away from that? what can you give up and still survive? if your ideal is fairness, how to do strive toward it when you look around and see that what you have is necessarily at someone's expense?

and from there, downhill...powerlessness, unfairness, anger, guilt...call it mental illness, call it fucked up, but from my perspective, it can bury you; you wonder if the only means to salvation is destruction; if the system can't be fixed without being overturned; and you wonder: how can you make people see what they're not seeing?

of course, i can't say that this guy's route was in any way similar, or even the conclusions. just that i feel like i can understand it and empathize.

and i have to say, it seems like it has to take some kind of effort to be so casually dismissive of the value of the life of someone obviously at the depths of pain and desperation, even if you don't comprehend the reasons for it. lots of people consider suicide for whatever reason; lots of people try it; more often there is someone or something that pulls one back from it, some measure of hope or a reason; it's incredibly sad that some people don't get that, or can identify it, or can get it in time.

and as one prone to overstay my welcome: the line 'suicide is a selfish act' is ridiculous. it's invoked almost superstitiously on such a tragedy, and like any superstition it's meaningless. the desperate don't have the luxury of selfishness when it's the self they're aiming to destroy. but some people like the poetry of clever oxymoronic wisdom, even when it's simply moronic.
posted by troybob at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2006 [9 favorites]


I agree with those taking this talented, tortured and lucid man seriously. His act is heartbreaking and I honor it.

.
posted by lathrop at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2006


There's no sugar coating on this pill, and a lot of people are spitting it out.

wrong ... there's no sugar coating on life, and HE spat it out
posted by pyramid termite at 6:59 PM on November 8, 2006


His death was sad, unnecessary, and ineffectual.

R.I.P., Malachi.

.
posted by wires at 7:02 PM on November 8, 2006


I was touched and saddened after seeing this mans image and reading his final statement. When I began reading these comments I was shocked to see the dismissive tone many took. I was relieved though reading the later comments.

"Anyone can lash out and retaliate, that is not leadership or vision...I was alive when John F. Kennedy instilled hope into a generation" - Malachi lost hope.

For my part, I try to hold back the cynicism and hope that our nation finds inspired leaders again.
posted by GoshND at 7:18 PM on November 8, 2006


I agree with Alex404 and others. For everyone who can snark at this, fuck you. At best, this was a political gesture, at worst, it was sad; one way or another, the fact that you can get a sarcastic laugh out of this is pretty sick, imo.

What's the difference between this guy and a monk? An orange robe? Since nobody on the thread knows him personally, nobody here is really fit to judge how his spiritual development compares to the monk who immolated himself. And as others have pointed out, his writing is lucid, if very sad, which indicates to me depression, but not delusion.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 7:28 PM on November 8, 2006


.
posted by wah at 7:31 PM on November 8, 2006


.
posted by jperkins at 7:41 PM on November 8, 2006


I can't say I sympathize with everything he said, but I can sympathize with his feelings of powerlessness.... I go through life every day trying to do what I think is right and trying to effect positive change in my little ways, knowing the whole time that it's never going to work and that I can't stop people from hurting other people. That constant failure is hard to take, and I don't always do a great job.

It's really sad to see someone who didn't have whatever it is that allows me to hold up under the weight of it all. And it's even more sad to see that his final act, his last effort to make a difference, did absolutely nothing except make a bunch of us sad, and a bunch of us angry at him.

.
posted by pinespree at 7:58 PM on November 8, 2006


Way to waste gas, dude.
posted by notmydesk at 7:59 PM on November 8, 2006


.
posted by moonbird at 8:05 PM on November 8, 2006


...

What a fucking waste.
posted by killdevil at 8:39 PM on November 8, 2006


Fuck all y'all who think what this guy did was anything other than a selfless act of protest of the eternal war on terra.

If you were here in this room I'd challenge you to a fight.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:56 PM on November 8, 2006


I understand how this guy felt, and how troybob felt, but, you know, making the choice to go through with it isn't going to come across as a political statement, and it won't affect the situation in a positive way. I understand from personal experience that sometimes people get into such places and feel like there is no other way out. Of course, that's not true, but it's hard to see that at the time. When you think about it, people have endured far worse. Doesn't take too much reading of history (or global news) to discover that. Sure, clinical depression is real, but you have a choice to make. This choice will end his pain but cause others who cared about him to endure it. Obviously this guy was depressed. But when someone kills themselves to make a political statement, sometimes it's poignant, even when it's not a monk. Sometimes, not so much ... Think it depends on whether the act is meant to or call attention to the "victim" or the problem.

Now maybe you're scared of jumpin'
'N poison makes you sick
'N you want a little attention
'N you need it pretty quick
Don't wanna mess your face up
Or we won't know if it's you
Aw there's just so much to worry about
Now what you gonna do?

Go head on 'n get it over with then

- Zappa
posted by krinklyfig at 9:07 PM on November 8, 2006


.
posted by cows of industry at 9:29 PM on November 8, 2006


I regret making fun of this guy earlier. He was clearly disturbed, which isn't funny. I think I laughed at it because serious mental illness is so unsettling.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 7:39 PM CST on November 8 [+] [!]


You laughed because you're a douchebag. It's ok though, we understand.

.
posted by hototogisu at 9:43 PM on November 8, 2006


Wow. Some of the comments here remind me a lot of the Little Green Football posts making fun of Rachel Corrie after she was killed by an Israeli bulldozzer. Way to go, metafilter.

Here's an obit with some moving eulogies, quite a few by people who know Ritscher.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:16 PM on November 8, 2006


No shit.
posted by luckypozzo at 10:22 PM on November 8, 2006


Funny how no one setting themselves on fire in support of the war.

It's sad that the world is coming to this

I hope he's finally at peace

And I hope someday so will we
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:49 PM on November 8, 2006


Some people are stupid.

I don't think he was.

He was too smart to overlook what we are doing.

I'm off to have a donut and a cocktail.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 11:57 PM on November 8, 2006


Funny how no one setting themselves on fire in support of the war.

Well, no, that type sets other people on fire.

Poor Malachi.
posted by pracowity at 12:02 AM on November 9, 2006


.

Had no intention of commenting on this, but I wanted to add my little bit of counterweight to the smug snark in this thread. The self-written obit was quietly heartbreaking. He sounds like he was a decent, passionate, caring human being with a sense of humour - anyone who quotes Steven Wright in his obituary is all right in my book - and if the pain of his life ever became more than he could handle, that's his business.
posted by gompa at 12:13 AM on November 9, 2006


Nobody notices a suicide, people notice you starting your car on fire on the 520 bridge during Friday Rush hour. At least make a statement.

I've always wondered why nobody started a group of activists recruiting terminally ill people. Gonna die, at least make a statement. Piss off enough people during rush hour, or a superbowl weekend, and maybe you might get a headline.

But then, how many Divorced men die each year and make the news, not many. Unless you have a fake hand grenade in the court house. Blue suicide, gets some news.

Poor guy, not even a google hit on his life.
posted by IronWolve at 12:24 AM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


rough ashlar, I'm not talking about this guy's act per se, I'm just talking about reactions to what he did -- and I do stand by my conviction that glorifying acts of self-martyrdom through suicide is a dangerous way to react.

Even if his act prompts us to think more deeply about what we could be doing to stop the war, does that mean what he did was right? Does it justify it or make it ethical? I'm not sure that it does. Moreover, the claim that his self-sacrifice was worth it if it "wakes people up" or motivates them to action is, to me, the equivalent of saying that the ends justify the means.
posted by treepour at 12:28 AM on November 9, 2006


Poor guy, not even a google hit on his life.

I've been looking at his photographs for quite a while now without ever realizing they were his...

I mean, it says "photos by Tim Ershot" above all of them--how can you not smile at that?
posted by hototogisu at 12:28 AM on November 9, 2006


I vote that everybody who called this guy selfish be immediately inducted into the Evil Fucking Idiots Hall of Fame, pronto. Perhaps it scares you that some people are actually taking the current crisis seriously, rather then chewing your self righteous cud and paying your taxes in silence while the world goes to hell. Self immolation, jesus. Why try to strip a man of his dignity and message after he's dead?
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 1:10 AM on November 9, 2006


I don't really think something like this is going to really have an impact on any policy, really. Maybe it will have an impact on the public, or maybe it will be largely forgotten in a month.

But that leads to another question. What can really be done with Iraq? It's not as if they can just pull out and leave a huge mess for someone else to clean up. They have to figure out a way to get the situation stabalized, and that will probably be a long while. Not to mention keep eating up large amounts of funds.

There's also the terrorism issue. Since we destabalized the country, terrorist orginizations have popped up everywhere. Each day we are there, they get more recruits. No one in Washington seems to have a very clear plan on how to address this, or any of the problems really.

What would happen there if we pulled out? Probably someone else would step in, the US would be considered weak, the terrorists would probably spin that to their advantage.

The debate on whether or not we should have even gone over there isn't an issue anymore, we probably shouldn't have, but it's done, and now it is on how to proceed.

It's not really a winning situation right now. Maybe Rumsfeld finally figured that out and decided to step down before things got worse. I think that the administrations plan might be to dump the whole mess on the next administration.
posted by jdm2006 at 1:17 AM on November 9, 2006


.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:01 AM on November 9, 2006


Sad story. Clearly the man had issues, and I'm sure many people are hurting now that he's gone.

.
posted by antifuse at 3:03 AM on November 9, 2006


All suicide is supremely selfish. Plus, having read the note, I'm not sure he was dealing with a full deck.

Any time you catch yourself thinking that your death or life will matter at all, or even that the human race is in jeopardy, then you should probably take one of those happy pills we hear so much about.

Word to the wise.

I've said it before: People see the world through a prism of their own desires. Step aside from this, even for a moment, and feel the weight of history, the weight of the every death in our 4,000 years or more.

Wake to the realization: It's not about you.
posted by ewkpates at 3:04 AM on November 9, 2006


Let my own lack of a voice be heard.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:34 AM on November 9, 2006


I'm not sure he was dealing with a full deck

Unlike you, of course, dealing with the full deck including the jokers.

weight of the every death in our 4,000 years or more ...It's not about you

4000 years or more? Are you religious? 120,000 years or more is more accurate, AFAIK.
Are you suggesting that no life can make a difference?

The universe is right big, like, and we are, like, really small and stuff. Maybe you have a point that is not a vapid cliche, but you are not doing a very good job of explaining it.

Suicide with a political motivation seems to be a difficult thing for some people to consider. I would suggest it might be more selfish than devoting one's life to helping the dis-advantaged, but it is a personal choice. Choose life, the rest is un-American.
posted by asok at 3:35 AM on November 9, 2006


Too bad, he'd maybe have helped change things if he'd done it in front of the White House.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:09 AM on November 9, 2006


Too bad, he'd maybe have helped change things if he'd done it in front of the White House.

If he'd set himself on fire in front of Dubya's abode, guards probably would've extinguished the blaze post haste, then he'd have been whisked off to some undisclosed location and we'd have another home-grown US citizen terrahrist to read about now that Jose Padilla's played out.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:32 AM on November 9, 2006


Without fear I go now to God - your future is what you will choose today.

/famous last words.
posted by wah at 5:34 AM on November 9, 2006


Choose life, the rest is un-American.
posted by asok at 3:35 AM PST


How does the military work then?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:41 AM on November 9, 2006


What can really be done with Iraq?
posted by jdm2006 at 1:17 AM PST


How about more troops via a draft and actually paying for the war via higher taxes?

How about higher taxes to pay for the equipment the soldiers need?

Given you've rejected leaving, ya know.

Unless you think the present system is working just fine.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:44 AM on November 9, 2006


.

I suppose the snarking would rather he have slit rumsfield's throat, that would have been an act fearless of death.

He was wise enough to know where that would have led. Cheers, Malachi.
posted by eustatic at 6:11 AM on November 9, 2006


Rarely have I been more sickened or saddened by something I've read on Metafilter than by this thread.

This man is someone I would have liked to have known. He obviously loved musicians, loved people, and I believe him when he says he loved life. How simplistic to dismiss him as a random crackpot when his writing is so warm, sincere -- and yeah, xmutex, I doubt he'd have minded you laughing, there's self-deprecation too, obviously deliberate. He was wry about his self-perceived failed life.

He publicly, violently removed himself from the world he loved, because he didn't know how to be both human and American anymore, a problem every thinking person I know has wrestled with. Goddamn but I wish he hadn't. Good writers with good hearts have never been a dimestore item but my god do we need every one of them now.

I stay out of political threads by and large here because they are often so bad, but also because there is a thick fog covering my formerly more activist life consisting of equal parts dread, disgust, fear, and apathy. These previous few days have been the first time in years that I've felt hope for my beloved country, and more of that is for the people who voted than for the politicians they elected. Some hope that we are waking from this evil dream.

Malachi Ritscher wasn't asleep. He was tormented. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to guess at his sanity, but his writing was lucid. His reasons make complete goddamn sense to me. He deserves better than to die this brutal way, to make a gesture he thought might wake the sleeping polity, only to be ignored or mocked -- especially by those of us who walk and talk but might as well be lying down with our eyes sewn shut.
posted by melissa may at 6:44 AM on November 9, 2006 [7 favorites]


Holy shit, I never even heard about this and I live in Chicago. Thanks for the post.
posted by agregoli at 7:05 AM on November 9, 2006


.
posted by Hanover Phist at 7:12 AM on November 9, 2006


Thanks for that eloquent statement, melissa may.
posted by languagehat at 7:17 AM on November 9, 2006


This is you guys: "I sure don't give that much of a fuck. This man must obviously have damaged his reasoning process somehow, because I am a priori both a good and sane person and have not done what he did."

Buncha assholes.

*spits*
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:35 AM on November 9, 2006


On a more personal level- my immediate response was similar to agregoli's. Regardless of whether his act was personal or political in motivation, and regardless of whether or not it could be considered a sacrifice or an effective form of protest, I was shocked that "man sets self on fire" is now a situation that merits little more than a mention in the Sun Times.

I live in Chicago, and I have to wonder if we are now so blase in this city that a guy setting himself on fire just gets lumped in with the rest of the crap that happens here on a daily basis. I don't really think the story was suppressed due to its political nature, but I also really don't buy the "newspapers don't report suicides" angle.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:51 AM on November 9, 2006


.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:40 AM on November 9, 2006


artw: Untreated mental illness is a terrible thing and it's a shame that so many people fall through the cracks, but other than that who gives a shit?

Possibly the most insensitive and ignorant thing I've seen posted on here in a long time.

Congratulations.
posted by inoculatedcities at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2006


R.I.P
posted by crumbly at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2006


The snarking on this thread has little to do with the man's suicide, and everything to do with the headline: "A man set himself on fire in Chicago last Friday morning in protest at the war in Iraq."

Even the most naive person (which this guy clearly was not) knows enough to provide clips for the evening news[*]. If he really wanted to give up his life to make a statement about the war, he would have a) left recorded video statements stating clearly what he intended to do, and b) arranged for the video taping of his demise. Doing it at a nationally recognized symbol -- say, the Vietnam War Memorial -- would also have been a good idea.

From his writings it seems pretty clear that he suffered from depression, and the half-assed nature of this "protest" comes from the fact that he was more interested in committing suicide than in making any particular statement.

The fact is that if it really was a protest then it was incompetently done, and the man gave his life for nothing. Hence the snarks.


[*] It's not a coincidence that there were pictures of Thich Quang Duc's sacrifice (not suicide). It was designed as a media event, and frankly it would have played even better on video.
posted by tkolar at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2006


tkolar: Why don't you show us how it's supposed to be done.

SCDB: The OP seems to imply some sort of sinister plot to suppress this news. Karl Rove strikes again!

I don't see any suggestion of the sort. You are projecting, no surprise there.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:21 AM on November 9, 2006


tkolar, from mwhybark's link:

I have also learned that, according to Chicago police, Malachi videotaped his death.

I'm not trying to romanticize or praise his actions, but I'd like to understand him, particularly in light of the tasteless, heartless trashing he's received here. Again, I do not want to be presumptuous, but perhaps the man wanted to make sure he was not interrupted or rescued. Perhaps he did not want to injure or traumatize innocent people. Whatever his reasons, between taping it and posting extensively to his site, it's clear he planned it carefully, and meant it to be a public protest.
posted by melissa may at 9:25 AM on November 9, 2006


In reading his writings (I didn't finish) I am not struck by his madness, nor his being self-absorbed. His despair is palpable and while I might snark on his inability to find a constructive alternative, I cannot question his sincerity. I was saddened by his recounting his inability to murder Rumsfeld, and thought; what must our society be like to help this gentle soul ruminate on his own inability to murder and 'force' a seemingly thoughtful man to self-imolate.
posted by sfts2 at 9:46 AM on November 9, 2006


What a bunch of assholes, ridiculing this guy.

He was obviously intelligent, tormented, and a very fine writer.

It's sad. I hope he's in a better place.
posted by rougy at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2006


I suppose I ought to have known better than to open this thread.

Last Friday I heard a traffic report on NPR about expressway backups due to a fire; I was shocked and sad to discover this week that that fire was a person I'd spoken with and seen around town.

I'm nowhere near wise enough to speak to the ethics of suicide, nor to whether his death is an effective tool of protest, nor to suppositions about his metal health; maybe I'm unable to make the leap to abstraction required to enter that debate.

So, I will speak to what I do know. Malachi spent his life championing causes he believed in, and championing and documenting music that needed a champion and an archivist. He was disarming and funny and kind and seemingly tireless. He did important work with the weirdo, jazz, free, art, improvised music scene. He did important work in the activist community. He deserves better than internet snark.

I just heard that Elastic (the collective and performance space through whom I knew Malachi) is organizing a memorial this Sunday the 12th, at their space on Milwaukee.

His energy and thoughtfulness will be missed and I truly hope Malachi has found peace.
posted by verysleeping at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Perhaps no one is reading this thread anymore, but I've another thought I'd like to add:
For those of you condemning his choice in death, please, at least take the time to learn about what he did and gave, in life.
posted by verysleeping at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2006


Thanks for sharing that, verysleeping. I'm sure I'm not the only one checking in on this thread. Every comment like yours helps balance out the jerks.
posted by languagehat at 3:18 PM on November 9, 2006


I was reminded of this via BoingBoing, and I actually was so moved I came back to MetaFilter to see if it had been posted yet.

In the process between here and there and pondering the world at large - with what is perhaps an older, wiser heart - I had something of an epiphany:

In this cruel, heartless fucked up mess of a clusterfuck that humanity has woven for itself...

It seems that the only people that will bother to stop and consider the message that one has found so important that they would voluntarily die in an extremely painful way to make that message heard...

Then these people will probably be the ones that would agree with you in the first place.


However, that doesn't mean that those of us still alive can't try to spread that message.

Cherish your friends and loved ones, folks, but don't forget to cherish your enemies and hated, too.
posted by loquacious at 4:18 PM on November 9, 2006


.
nice obit link hydrophonic

There are more than a few people who do this. And for similar reasons. But they have acted from dispair. Ritscher, to me, did not. He gave his life. What impact he had was irrelevent.
Bill Gates could devote massive resources to opposing the war in Iraq and make a major impact. He hasn’t. But if he did - does that mean Ritscher gave less?

“His energy and thoughtfulness will be missed and I truly hope Malachi has found peace.”
Amen to that. Probably the only thing he can be accused of is depriving us of that.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:25 PM on November 9, 2006


Look, some of us snark because we've lived through it. I'm sorry this guy felt as if he had to make a point out of it. I've come damn close to having this story written about me. He could have chosen to continue to enrich people's lives and have a positive effect. Instead, regardless of his brain chemistry, this is what he chose. He gave in to his dispair. That's a mistake. So be it.

He's lost his ability to make a difference to anyone anymore. Sorry it had to happen. It's sort of poetic, knowing what sort of person he was, but it's mostly just sad. I'm sorry he couldn't live with his pain. I've sure as hell been there, more than once. His suicide was due to depression, pure and simple. The war protest aspect of it doesn't really change that. We all have to live with this shit, everyday. Life gets way worse than this for so many people. He was better off than most. He didn't get his limbs blown off or see his children die. Other people have, and yet, some of them endure. That's a testament to the human spirit. This is just a tragedy.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:32 PM on November 9, 2006


sonofsamiam wrote...
tkolar: Why don't you show us how it's supposed to be done.

If the time and place comes that I think it would have a positive, forward effect on the world, I'll do just that.

I do not think for a moment that I will live up to the grace that Thich Quang Duc and his fellow monks showed in similar circumstances, but I guarantee you my death won't go unnoticed due to a lack of publicity.

melissa may wrote...
I have also learned that, according to Chicago police, Malachi videotaped his death.

That's excellent news. I hope the video is spread far and wide.
posted by tkolar at 8:25 PM on November 9, 2006


Ah, even here, infested by cruel and stupid animals.

Malachi Ritscher is a name I never knew and a name I will never forget. If it was for me alone, then I swear to you all I will benefit from knowing him, and this: knowledge, which is itself sensitivity, can itself be maladaptive, easily confused with madness.

I suspect that, at some point in his life, Malachi was mad. I suspect also that in that moment in which he died for an audience, aflame, he was quite sane, and redeemed even the most stubbornly hard-hearted among us.

I choose to benefit from the man. Those carrying the extreme and unnecessary weight of animosity seem by their efforts to punish themselves; and yet, let them too be fearless.
posted by Legerdemain at 8:47 PM on November 9, 2006


Thank you Melissa May. Very beautifully written and I doubt I could have said any of this better myself.

RIP Malachi.

.
posted by blackturtleneck at 12:05 AM on November 10, 2006


Well done Malachi
.
posted by hortense at 12:25 AM on November 10, 2006


"Look, some of us snark because we've lived through it.”

And snarking makes the situation better?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2006


I think you're misjudging how savvy this guy is (to the cats who're all he should have had better p.r., he should have sent in clips, etc.)

His act didn't have an immediate effect but the news is starting to make its way around Chicago. It's all over myspace (yeah, I know) and the Reader's website and people are still getting over their shock about how to deal with it and what to do because of it, but a lot of people care.

I think he went out with some class by tucking the suicide note away in his website and letting the attention find him. Also, it seems callous to use these words, but since I know that he cared about not having a cliche death I'll say it:

He went out with some flair, too.
posted by elr at 11:23 AM on November 10, 2006


For all of you who are handwaving this man's actions - and the meaning of them - away because he was mentally ill, he was depressed, he was sick:

You are diagnosing him, just like a doctor would. That's fine.

But the purpose of diagnosis is to help and to heal, to find the way forward. Diagnosis is never performed to trivialize, to dismiss out of hand, to give an excuse for ignoring what is right in front of your face.

For those of you who think that actions are meaningless -

.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:34 PM on November 10, 2006 [3 favorites]


It's a paradoxical act to kill yourself near your sign that says "thou shalt not kill."

After reading his explanation of the suicide, it occurs to me that it was less a protest and more a simple exit from it all. I don't think he was trying to change the world, he was merely ending the world.
posted by found missing at 1:10 PM on November 10, 2006


It's a paradoxical act to use terror tactics under a banner that says "war on terror."
posted by zennie at 1:51 PM on November 10, 2006


It's a paradoxical act to kill yourself near your sign that says "thou shalt not kill."

Take it up with Yeshua.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2006


It's a paradoxical act to use terror tactics under a banner that says "war on terror."

It certainly is. Your point being...?
posted by found missing at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2006


I had a point?
posted by zennie at 2:36 PM on November 10, 2006


no?
posted by found missing at 3:28 PM on November 10, 2006


I find myself deeply moved by this, especially since I recently visited Chicago and know several peace activists and musicians who live there. I heard about this from a friend of Malachi's sister-in-law.

In my tradition (Mennonite), those who are martyred for their beliefs are held in high regard and I have always felt vaguely guilty because I, so far, have not been a person who believes enough to give up my own life for something or -- in this case -- against something.

While I mourn the loss of a sensitive articulate voice who spoke up against the war, I feel as I did back as a very young person in the 1970s: the intentionally willed loss of a beautifully-lived, peaceful life speaks to those of us still living about the painful loss of the lives of soldiers and civilians young and old, a loss that grows, unabated and nearly unremarked.

The feeling I have is: how can I continue statement that Malachi and other self-immolators have uttered with their lives? Their act of resonant pain cannot be the end of their story, nor can it be the end of ours.
posted by rw at 3:00 AM on November 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Nice comment rw (et. al)
posted by Smedleyman at 8:38 PM on November 11, 2006


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