If you have the courage to die for what you believe in, why not live for those same things;

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



O souls

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 

burning sand.

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

A beacon 

of Justice.

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 

and painting!

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 

For me?

And tell her:

Daddy’s gone gladly, don’t be sad!



O souls

Still living or having gone before!

Now my heart is at its brightest!

I burn my body.

So the flames may blaze 

The Truth.

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