Maybe I’m missing something important in this; but I heard this story on bbc radio the other day about a guy who self-immolated in protest of the Vietnam war.
On November 3, 1965, a 31 year old Quaker named Norman R. Morrison burned himself to death outside the Pentagon, 100 feet from Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s office. http://www.leinsdorf.com/political_suicide.htm
And my thoughts were about how sad it was, that he left his family [he was married w/ 3 children- one of which (a one year old!) was with him just before he died] that it was a selfishly selfless thing- destroying himself - even to call attention to a crime against humanity, and that certainly there might be a better way to accomplish this protest communication.
In a society where it is normal for human beings to drop bombs on human targets, where it is normal to spend 50 percent of the individual’s tax dollar on war, where it is normal…to have twelve times overkill capacity, Norman Morrison was not normal. He said, ‘Let it stop’ (Hendrickson, 224). http://www.angelfire.com/nb/protest/morr.html
This was 46 years ago; the radio story I heard was his wife explaining how she was proud of him, for his courage and saying that he did this “for the children of the villages in Vietnam, who were dying from American bombs”; but that she wished he hadn’t died- that she loved him and missed him.
All this is - seems- far from my life. Despite the continuing injustice of war waged in several countries by america, there is not a circumstance I am willing to imagine, where taking my life to communicate/call attention to the horror of the war- would be what I saw as my only, last option. maybe this reflects my complacency my lack of conviction, commitment to “the cause”, to purpose larger than myself, my acceptance of the status quo. I think however noble my intention - suicide would end my opportunity to change things here on earth- it would pass on to others an obligation to do the things I might have done, the things I am supposed to be doing.
The Poet-Laureate of communist Vietnam Tố Hữu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%E1%BB%91_H%E1%BB%AFu) (http://vi.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%E1%BB%91_H%E1%BB%AFu ) wrote a poem called “Emily, my child” that takes the voice of Morrison. Schoolchildren in Vietnam, memorize this poem. [it is quite the piece of propaganda— changing the meaning- inserting words that Morrison may [or may not] have voiced about why he was doing what he did]
Emily, My Child
-By To Huu
Emily, come with me
So when grown up you will know the way
and not be lost.
Where are we going, Daddy?
To the riverbank, the Potomac.
What do you want me to see, Daddy?
I want you, dear, to see the
O my child, with your round eyes,
O my child, with your golden hair,
Ask me no more question, darling!
Come, I will carry you.
Soon you will be home again with Mummy
Living still or having gone before.
Blaze up. Truth, blaze up!
Your Crimes are piling high.
ALl humanity is outraged.
You, the great dollar devil of our world.
You cannot borrow the mantle
Of Christ, nor the saffron robe of
Where are you hiding? In the graveyard
Of your vast five-cornered house
Each corner a continent.
You hide yourself
From the flaming world
As an ostrich hides its head in the
Look this way!
For this one moment, look at me!
Here you see not just a man with a child
in his arms.
I am of Today.
And this my child, my Emily, is the life
of all our Futures.
Here I stand
And together with me
The great heart of America.
To light to the horizon
You gang of devils! In whose name
Do you send B-52s,
Napalm, and poison gases
From the White House,
From Guam Island,
To Viet Nam?
To murder peace and national freedom,
To burn down hospitals and schools,
To kill people who know nothing but love,
To kill children who know nothing
but going to school,
To kill with poisons fields covered with
flowers and leaves all the four seasons,
To kill even the flow of poetry, song, music
In whose name
Do you bury our American youth in
Young men, strong and handsome,
Able today to release the power of nature
To bring happiness to men?
In whose name
Do you send us to think jungles
Full of spike pits, of resistance swamps?
To villages and towns which became elusive
Where day and night the earth quakes and
the sky rocks?
O Viet Nam, strange land
Where little boys are heroes,
Where hornets are trained as fighters,
Where even flowers and fruit become
To hell, to hell with you,
You gang of devils!
And listen, O my America!
To this anguished voice,
the never-dying voice,
Of this son of yours, a man of this century.
Emily, my darling!
The night is falling..
Tonight I cannot take you home!
After the flames have flared
Mummy will come and fetch you.
Willyou hug her and kiss her
And tell her:
Daddy’s gone gladly, don’t be sad!
Still living or having gone before!
Now my heart is at its brightest!
I burn my body.
So the flames may blaze
November 7, 1965
(Translated by Tran Van Chuong and F.G.)
found on www.mylaipeacepark.org/pdf/wop2.pdf
after some searching
above are some additional links- if you are interested. I am now suddenly in a hurry to go home to see my own children