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Fall of Autumn presents Brent Kado of AvantChicago, reading Malachi Ritscher's Mission Statement. Malachi Ritscher committed self-immolation on the side of the Kennedy Expressway during morning rush hour on Friday November 3, 2006, as a protest against the Iraq war.
"Writing a cultural and entertainment weblog focused on the happenings around Chicago allows me to visit 40-50 different websites per week. During the first week of November of last year, one of the most forceful and captivating news stories I'd ever seen was covered by a few local blogs. A couple of days earlier an, at the time, unknown man, pulled his car over on the Kennedy Expressway and lit himself on fire near the Ohio Street exit. Days later the man (Malachi Ritscher) was identified by friends who had received his belongings via mail and by his mission statement and self-penned obituary on his website. Ritscher explains in his mission statement that his self-immolation (one of only nine such acts in American history) was a protest to the unnecessary war in Iraq. Clicking through Ritshcer's website is like reading an autobiography. Filled with pictures, notes and drawings, the site ends with his mission statement. His words in the statement, which you can listen to in part here, speak powerfully and poignantly about the state of our nation's politics, culture and ideology. The night I first read about his death, I spent at least an hour flipping through his site and then reading the mission statement. I was moved to tears. But it wasn't just his act of heroism or his honest, meaningful words that brought out the emotion, I was also lamenting from sorrow and shame. I was deeply saddened by the death of a man I did not know, a man so brave that he would take his life in order to take a more meaningful stand against this terrible war. While I had written a couple of pieces against the war and felt strongly about it's end, Ritscher's act left me in awe. But after reading his mission statement I also felt very ashamed. (maybe angry) What our country has done to us all is a travesty, a deep scar we will be living with for decades to come and here was a reasonable man that took it so personally that ending his life in protest seemed the only answer. I can honestly say that my passion and drive to speak out against ending the war rose to a new level after learning about Ritscher's death and reading his words. Which brings me to the recital that is available here. After being so moved by the story of Ritscher and his words, I was shocked to learn that his story was not widely covered in the media. I kept thinking that in some creative way I'd like to keep his message alive and in turn both pay him honor and continue speaking out against the war. And while I had a few ideas, the only one that came to fruition was a brief article I wrote for my weblog Avant/Chicago.
Months later when the good people who run Machine Media asked me to take part in one of their curated readings for the Around The Coyote Art Festival, Ritscher's words immediately came to mind. This was a perfect chance to creatively express what I had been compelled to do. While I have been performing my own writing for over five years, I'd never attempted to read someone else's material and nothing I'd read was as intense as Ritscher's mission statement. His statement (of which I condensed for length) speaks for itself. I only hope that putting a voice to his compelling thoughts, will further his endeavor for peace and understanding." -Brent Kado, avantchicago.com
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