It is sad that, on the eve of what may yet mark a turnaround for the direction of our country and the war in Iraq, one man’s protest is lost amongst the endless churning of news. Chicago musician and documenter of the Chicago jazz scene Malachi Ritscher immolated himself last Friday morning in protest of the continuing war in Iraq. Roll that around your mind for a minute. The man set himself on fire in protest. While the news reports make it out to be a bizarre suicide, a ‘mission statement’ on Ritscher’s website shows that it was so much more than that. In his own words:
“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.”
To date, Google only returns 3 news articles about his act, a fact I find increasingly sad. While the act itself is difficult (at best) to applaud, Ritscher’s passion and commitment to peace are impossible to dismiss. I can’t imagine that a culture like ours would readily imitate his actions (nor frankly do I wish it to), but gawdamn…. What is it going to take to convince those in charge that things absolutely have to change?