Freedom Folks

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Media MIA on Chicago Anti-War Self-Immolation

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

According to some who knew the man who set himself on fire along the Kennedy Expressway last Friday, it wasn't a suicide. They're calling it the act of a martyr.

The man who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself near a 25-foot-tall sculpture titled "Flame of the Millennium" was Malachi Ritscher, 52, a local musician and anti-war activist.

The medical examiner ID'd Ritscher on Wednesday through medical records. Friends were already convinced it was him.
The "last Friday" referred to here is November 3rd, the Friday before the elections. I live in Chicago, and the first I heard of this was a reference on Chicago Indymedia, a full week after it happened. A guy burns himself to death next to the highway in downtown Chicago during rush hour, and this is the first I hear of it?

Ritscher apparently penned his own obituary and posted it on his Web site. In the third person, he says he was born Mark David Ritscher in Dickensen, N.D. in 1954. He moved to Chicago in the early 1980s and changed his name to Malachi.


"[Ritscher] participated passionately in the anti-war and free speech movement," says the obit. "He was arrested at a protest on March 20, 2003, and spent the night in jail ..."

There's also mention of a son "from whom he was estranged," and two grandchildren.
My first thought upon reading this story was "How is this not news?" I couldn't believe I just happened upon this in an alternative media source.

Then I really got to thinking about it, and this is what I came up with:

The mainstream media, of course, loves to cover the anti-war movement in a positive light (think Cindy Sheehan). But, even for wacky lefties, self-immolation is out there. It seems loco, to say the least, which makes it rather difficult to put a positive spin on the rabid, anti-war, BDS-suffering left that the media likes to dress up and put lipstick on before it hits the airwaves/front page.

So the media went MIA on this one, with the exception of the above piece by Richard Roeper in the Sun-Times. They left the story to be told by the likes of Anarkismo and Infoshop News.

Comments -- some from Ritscher's family -- found on the Chicago Reader blog Post No Bills, which had an election day post on Ritscher's bizarre suicide...

Floyd Webb
November 8th - 2:47 a.m.
So are we going to just let this happen and do nothing to memorialize this man? Are we too going to accept the unstable, depressed angle some will attach to his act? A humane individual is affected by these things. Few people act. True spiritual conviction is rare. This last flame of a life flares to awaken us to action. Let not let his sacrifice be in vain, let it not be trivialized. What are WE going to do?

November 8th - 8:18 a.m.
Wait, WHY IS THIS NOT MAKING NATIONAL NEWS? He immolated himself, iraq being one of the causes given? That is not something to be buried in a small local indie paper. i'm going to have to post this article around on the web.

Paul Ritscher
November 9th - 12:24 a.m.
Malachi is my brother, I love him and I miss him. He was a gifted musician, writer, artist, electrical wizard, recording engineer, friend and a very, very serious peace activist. He was the most original, sensitive and empathic person I know and the horrific actions taken by our government since 9/11 weighed heavily on his soul. I suppose he carried in his heart the guilt we all should share for allowing our government to perform the unspeakable horrors in Afganistan and Iraq and he took a very personal action to futher expose these horrible atrocities. He is a victim of war as completely as the children at a bombed wedding ceremony or any of thousands upon thousands of nameless victims in the Middle East killed by policies we so apathetically endorse. He believed in his actions, however extreme they were. He believed they could help to open eyes, ears and hearts and to show everyone that a single man's actions, by taking such extreme personal responsiblity, can perhaps affect change in the world. I am proud of him; very, very sad, but very, very proud.

Ellen Ritscher Sackett
November 9th - 4:20 a.m.
Thank you all for your kind, generous, thoughful condolences and reflections upon my unique and wonderful brother and his actions. I believe Malachi (Mark to me) was being true to himself by doing what he did. I wish that he knew how much people valued what he contributed to the world so that he could still be here to spread his message of love and peace. Certainly his contribution to the music world has not been in vain. There's a memorial concert planned for this Sunday at 5 p.m. I'm not sure where, but I'm sure that someone you know does. Please try to come. I would love to meet you. Bless you all. Peace to you, Malachi-Mark.

Ritscher Woman
November 9th - 8:39 a.m.
Mark Ritscher (I refuse to call him Malachi, as that was not his real name, but that of his son, which he assumed after he decided it was too good for someone else) was mentally ill and selfish. His son was not estranged from him by choice. His family is grieving the loss of a man that left them many years ago because the illness was all that was left in the end. Art and music can be made to caress a hurting world, but this is no place for it. Take this as it was - a cry of anger and a painful look at depression and unmedicated mental illness. It was not beautiful. It was not peaceful. He has left lives in ruins. If that was his message and his intent, then he has been successful. His grandchildren will not know him. Any further memorialization of this cruel act is nonsense.
In the end, I have to agree with Richard Roeper's take:

My sincere sympathies to all who knew Ritscher. But with all great respect, if he thought setting himself on fire and ending his life in Chicago would change anyone's mind about the war in Iraq, his last gesture on this planet was his saddest and his most futile.
Technorati Tags
Malachi Ritscher * Anti-War * BDS * Immolation * Chicago * Bizarre



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