What Is It Good For?

You probably haven't heard of Malachi Ritscher. And that would probably disappoint him . . . if he were still alive. Ritscher was a war activist, who was deep disturbed by the Iraqi Conflict. He wanted to make a powerful statement against the war to get people thinking before the midterm elections. So four days before Election Day, next to a busy expressway during the Chicago morning rush-hour, Ritscher doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He died within minutes. This form of suicide, known as self-immolation, has been practiced by devout Hindu and Buddhist monks for many years.

Ritscher had prepared a suicide note, as well as obituary claiming, "if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world." He presumed that his violent death would make headlines around the country, but it didn't. It took the coroner five days to examine his remains. It wasn't until a local independent Chicago paper picked up on the story that it's begun to raise interest.

There is now a group of individuals who are heralding Ritscher as a martyr to advance their anti-war cause. They long to carry his anti-war platform across the country and inform people of his terrible, violent death. But these people should beware how closely they align themselves with Malachi.

This was a very troubled individual. It seems he had a life-long struggle with depression, which in of itself isn't bad, but it went deeper. Ritscher claimed that he was in a situation to kill Donald Rumsfeld one day on a Chicago street, knife in hand, but chickened out. And yet there's now a group who want to laud him as a hero and make sure that his death wasn't in vain.

But that's all a bunch of crap.

Look, everyone has an opinion about this war, and many Americans are ready to be done with it. But how does killing yourself add to the debate? Enough people have died in the conflict itself. Ritscher claimed that he killed himself so that his death could make a difference. This guy could've done many, many more productive things with his life than trying to be an anti-war symbol and ending it.

I'm sorry, but Ritscher was just being selfish, trying to go out in a blaze of glory [pardon the pun]. He thought suicide was his ticket to postmortem stardom. He bet that if he killed himself at election time next to a busy expressway that everyone would talk about him. But nobody really noticed. And chances are, if I didn't write this post about him, you wouldn't know about him either.

You probably never heard of Norman Morrison either. Morrison was a Quaker, opposed to the Vietnam war and he too burned himself in protest. This guy, however, to the act to a different level as he brought his daughter with him to witness his death. What difference did his actions make? I'm glad the media ignored this story. The last message we need to send to young people is that if you kill yourself for a cause then you'll make the evening news. These anti-war groups should steer clear of using Ritscher as an example. Next thing you know, this action will elicit a copycat effect.

From personal experience I know that suicide is never the answer. If this becomes a new American trend for extreme activism, then "barbaric war" won't be our only moral problem.