Self-immolation on the White House Lawn

On Tuesday a man set himself aflame on the White House lawn.

As the Times reports today, apparently the man was a key informer against a Muslim cleric in Brooklyn who had allegedly raised funds for al Qaeda.

The man’s act seems, without us knowing the full details, incomprehensible. It should be pointed out self-immolation has a long history (Vietnam, Prague) and I find it unnerving that it’s happened here, just a few feet from the supposed center of the “Free World.” Self-immolation doesn’t say so much about the men and women who perform as it does about the social context in which they find it their only alternative, their only way to express their voice.