Tuesday, November 28, 2006

i heard you malachi

on november 3rd malachi ritscher committed self immolation in chicago to protest the iraq war.

we're only now hearing about it.

finally the word is getting out and it needs to.

the funny thing is, in october i told dutchman that if we lost the midterms i might just do the same out there in the middle of sunset and la brea. of course, i'm a big chicken, and most of all, i couldn't do that to dutchman or my family, but it isn't the first time that i've grappled with the intense helplessness that i feel in the face of the brutality done in my name.

one of the most interesting things that i'm finding, now that word is finally gettting out about malachi, is the debate about whether a sane person would do such a thing.

my question is, how does a sane person not resort to acts of desperation to be heard when our leaders are insane?

it all boils down to that bumpersticker about if you're not angry you're not paying attention, yada yada yada.. but really, there is a truth here that must be paid attention.

when i was nineteen i was hospitalized briefly for depression. it runs very deeply in my family and luckily i broke the pattern at an early age before i was imprisoned by bad choices. during the hospitalization i attended my first (and last) group therapy sessions. there was one man there who monopolized the sessions by telling everyone else what their problems were and droning on and on about himself. he was discharged shortly after i arrived and i was glad to see him go. but a week later he was back. after a few days of uncharacteristic silence he finally told his story. he tearfully explained how he had simply taken his car into the dealership for an easy repair. he had been given a typical runaround that had spiralled into what he described as a sadistic mockery. it apparently went on for hours and then days until he ended up back in the loony bin with the rest of us. sounds like the paranoid ramblings of a lunatic, right?

the thing is, my mother happened to work at that dealership. she came home regularly with horrific stories about what assholes the guys in repairs were, how they liked playing games with the customers and driving them nuts. she hated them.

just because my compatriot was sensitive doesn't mean he was wrong.

and i witnessed plenty of other cuckoo's nest's moments with patients challenging the staff (many of whom came from the local baptist seminary) that ended with the staff losing in the battle of wits and winning only by pulling rank. sometimes the staff would start stuff. it was almost as if they needed to rile the crazies to prove to themselves that they were the sane ones...

i started to get the impression that we were only locked up for our own good... to protect us, the sensitive, from the "sane" people.

malachi was an artist. as i've said before, it's the artist's job to be sensitive. we are the canaries in the coal mine. we are the visionaries who dream of a better future and show the landlocked leaders how to get there...

after 9/11 when we decided to move back to LA from NYC because we thought we were going to die -- and we wanted to die somewhere green and surrounded by friends -- we told one of our family members. she, being republican and of the "shopping is patriotic" ilk, said, "you can't let this effect you." i'm still shocked by that... 9/11, "this," "you can't let this effect you."

well, we did. we let 9/11 effect us. it's our job to let it effect us. it's my job to be sensitive. it's what drove me to join cindy sheehan in crawford and it's what drives me to teach and it's what allows me to express compassion for people i don't even like...

malachi, we heard you. we're sorry that you had to go to such extremes to be heard. if you can hear us, know that some of us are still here, working very hard to right these wrongs you died for.



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