My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

« Memorial & demonstration for Malachi Ritscher: Sat., 11-18 | Main | At last! Malachi in the corporate media »

November 15, 2006



I think the best way to honor Malachi's courage and stance is the step up the fight against this war and the Regime that Dreams of Fascism. Frankly, if the millions in this country who have hated this war from the beginning, plus all those who only NOW get it, all gave this system a political run for its money through a million different actions -- including more militant and direct action -- maybe so many would not feel so depressed about our chance at winning our future back. We must move from Grief to Action.

Alex Franks

Give me a BREAK. The dudes own son says his dad was on the path to suicide and nutty as fruitcake.
He was able to attach 'the war' to his death to give it some meaning, but in the end, he was just another sad American casualty. Remember, people kill them selves by the thousands in this country, yearly. So, instead of looking at the war, why arent we trying to figure out how to make the USA a place that doesnt breed depressive insanity?



I think the cultural attitude that allows Americans to feel numb to Iraqi deaths and American suicides alike IS what breads depressive insanity.

Is it healthier to be callous to the pain and suffering of other people? Is it saner to create a mental schism between our actions and the consequences they have for others?

A little humility, empathy and respect would do a lot more to create the place you speak of than the derision you express in your comment.


I really hope more people will address the questions Malachi Ritscher's flawed, profound act raises. I don't blame Alex (above) for fixating on what Malachi's son, Malachi, says on-line about his father's possible mental illness. The first question here is how much the mental state of the actor matters. Does the act have profound meaning regardless? I think it does. The second question is whether, in emphasizing the political nature & intentionality of Malachi's act, we are contributing to the social problem Alex points to. There is a false stigma associated with mental illness that makes some people want to deny it.
If an under-treated mental illness played a role in Malachi's act (assuming this can ever be known), it should be acknowledged frankly.



The communities who knew Malachi, including his own family, are completely varied in their assessment of his mental state. There are people who saw him daily but never discussed the war with him. There are musicians who saw him weekly but didn't sense he was in a depression. There are siblings who believe his commitment to the war even though they were not in regular contact. And there is an anti-war movement here that knew him as one of many, many activly involved and committed protestors against this war since the beginning. His stance against the war is well documented on his web site (and has been there for years.)

He stated that no one really knew him. How many of us would describe ourselves that way? Far too many, I think. Because we live in a world of stereotypes where people are labeled before being truly Known. And because we are told that anger, depression, loneliness are bad feelings that should be hidden -- and that reflect personal weakness of some sort. How easy is it to share your full self when people are so quick to say "he's nutty as a fruitcake"?

Lastly, we can't pretend that political issues don't truly effect our souls and daily lives. Some of us are particularly sensitive creatures by nature, making us vulnerable to the evil in the world. While others can shrug off world events by saying "I'm keeping well-informed" or that I gave at the office," some of us literally stay awake at night wishing with every fiber of our being for a way we can create meaningful, positive change in the world.

Is that insane?

Or is it more insane to live a peaceful coexistance with a nation headed towards fascism, more suffering, and self-destruction?

Sanity is relevant. So is anger. If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. And what looks sane to one person looks like silent complicity to another.

Mairead Case

Was Malachi insane? Maybe, maybe not -- there's no way to know for sure, and so debating the question really won't get us anywhere, definitively.

We do know that his death was planned, and we know that it was a shockingly violent one. That's scary, and it makes people angry, so it's not unreasonable to think that the in/sane debate is attractive because it allows people to avoid their own anger and fear. 'If he was crazy, then I don't really have to think about how what he did relates to me.'

I am most interested (if a word like that can be used in a context like this) in thinking about what could possibly make someone burn his face and body beyond recognition -- because once I've thought about that, as I think about that, then I can attempt to piece together my understanding of Ritscher's death. That, at least, is an understanding that I can aim for (even if it takes me a super-long time).


Nitsuh Abebe addresses this --well, I think-- in this article:

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.

Mairead Case

er, this article:


Malachi Ritcher's mental state isn't relevant to the message he left us and his immolation challenges us to give it more weight then we ordinarily would.

To consider the man's mental health a factor in the discussion is argumentum ad hominem, logically fallacious.

The statement, "the sun rises in the East," is true whether said by a sage or a schizophrenic.

So the important question IMO is how to respond to his gesture, and that is a profoundly personal decision.


I'm not from Chicago and never knew Malachai, but Stein asked me for comments on this suicide/protest a few weeks ago because I've written about John Brown and addressed the theories about his insanity.
It's interesting to read your comments here. I just, listened to Jeff Dorchen's commentary on Ritscher on "This is Hell's" Dec. 2nd show, and found it both moving and insightful. You can find the written version here:

One thing that I notice in the comments is that some want to draw a line between personal problems and political ones, so that this effort to make a political statement can be dismissed as really just a psychological symptom. That's a common way to dismiss protesters in general.
It's simplistic to draw such a line and say that it must be either one or the other. Why can't it be both?
There are a number of activists who have committed suicide in the context of despairing over both their personal demons and the hopeless state of the world as they saw it: Abbie Hoffman and Phil Ochs both come to mind.

radii supras

I had always wanted to learn about this topic ... I think it's great the way you expose .. great work and continuing on with this great blog

supra tk society

Don't know what is wrong what is rite but i know that every one has there own point of view and same goes to this one

The comments to this entry are closed.

October 2007

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31