Malachi the Martyr – Shifting the focus to Iraq

Malachi RitscherA few weeks ago, I wrote about Malachi Ritscher who immolated himself on the side of expressway in Chicago. I made this assessment:

“Only time will tell whether the blogosphere takes his self-immolating act and runs with it on the heels of ‘martyrdom.'”

I wasn’t off-base. Ritscher lit himself on fire on Friday, November 3. By Friday, November 10, Jennifer Diaz of Chicago set up a site called I heard you, Malachi in honor of his self-immolating act to bring attention to the war in Iraq.

The Pagan Science Monitor has a discussion going on about “Was Malachi Ritscher crazy?” It also had previous discussions on “A martyr for peace: Malachi Ritscher.” Much of the argument seems to be that Ritscher’s act shouldn’t bring attention to mental illness but should, rather, focus on that which he intended for it to do: shift attention to the injustice of the war in Iraq. While I understand that what he did was a symbolic gesture, it has left the few of us who got wind of the story scratching our heads, wondering, “What in the … ?!”

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Martyr or terrorist?

Malachi RitscherI previously wrote about Malachi Ritscher, who lit himself on fire and died as an act of protest against the war in Iraq. The sad part is that no one has heard about it. Only time will tell whether the blogosphere takes his self-immolating act and runs with it on the heels of “martyrdom.” Richard Roeper, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, calls his “last gesture on the planet” his “saddest and his most futile.” What’s disconcerting is that he wants to spread a message of peace and end the war in Iraq, however, he names his only regret as not killing Donald Rumsfeld at a supposed prime opportunity. In his mind, the trade-off was valuable: Murdering the former Secretary of Defense in exchange for somehow saving the lives of thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. (As much as I didn’t care for Mr. Rumsfeld, I’m keen enough to realize that killing him is not a solution to end the war in Iraq.) Which has prompted discussion on Ritscher’s mental state and his depiction as a supposed martyr. Personally, I think he definitely exhibited psychotic features in his actions, his words and unfortunately, his death. No doubt this man had a mental illness of some kind. The lesson that should be learned from his death is not awareness about the deaths from the war in Iraq but a renewed attempt  at understanding  mental illness with psychotic features.

Latest mental health news

Bebe Moore CampbellMalachi RitscherBebe Moore Campbell, an African-American novelist who was involved in mental health issues, has passed away. The NYTimes has a write-up about her and Liz Spikol has written a post in her memory.

Also, an interesting article: Malachi Ritscher, an activist who was vehemently against the war in Iraq, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire on a bridge to make a statement. Debate surrounding his death rages as people attempt to determine whether this was a man who was seriously mentally ill or extremely passionate about the war. Apparently, he’s popular enough now to get his own entry in Wikipedia.