Sunday, December 03, 2006

Malachi Ritscher, 1954-2006

........Malachi Ritscher is one of fewer than 10 people in American history to have done this. And as of 2006, it's hard to imagine how an American could successfully use self-immolation as a form of protest. You can't tell anyone about it: Most people would try to dissuade you, or even have you committed for your own protection. It's something you'll inevitably do alone; it's something that major media will not widely report; and it's something most people will conclude was the work of a very ill person.

Back, then, to the question everyone's asking, the question you probably already have strong opinions on: Was Malachi Ritscher a political martyr or a mentally troubled suicide? Let me tip my editorial hand and claim something: The argument is a distraction, and it's the wrong question to ask. It assumes too much. It assumes that the two things are mutually exclusive, or binaries, and that they can't be jumbled intractably in someone's thinking. It assumes that there's a clear, distinct line between rational politics and personal emotions. And it assumes that a troubled person can't legitimately mean what he says, even if his way of expressing it is tragic........

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