Little Bits of History

Mo Ri Xon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 2, 2010


Headline in The Baltimore Sun after Morrison's suicide

November 2, 1965: Norman Morrison dies in front of the Pentagon at 5:15 PM in a staged protest against the Vietnam War. Morrison was a 31-year-old Quaker who was a peaceful man – against the war, against the violence of war, and against killing in general. He was born in Erie, Pennsylvania and was married with three children.

Morrison held anti-war sentiments for some time. He had not discussed his plans with his wife, Anne. He had discussed the possibility of his demise with friends. Monks in Saigon were protesting the death and destruction heaped upon their nation by setting themselves on fire. This was not a normal occurrence in the US.

Earlier in the day, Morrison had read an article in an anti-war newspaper telling of a priest in Saigon who had his church bombed. He had stated that he watched his congregation being bombed and burned by napalm. Morrison took his youngest child, Emily, who was almost a year old with him as he went to the Pentagon. He doused himself with gasoline and carried Emily to the window of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Prior to lighting a match, he set Emily down, or according to some reports, Emily was snatched away, and then he lit himself on fire.

At the time, he was lauded by the anti-war faction as a hero. In fact, he is a Vietnamese hero even today known as Mo Ri Xon. There is a street named for him in Hanoi. However, in the US where self-immolation is not a popular form of protest, there was outrage that he seemed willing to sacrifice his own baby daughter and that his protest was steeped in insanity. His wife was left to carry on. She picked up Emily later that night and raised her children without a father and without insurance money. Ben, the couple’s son, died of cancer at age 16. The remaining family toured Vietnam in 1999 where they met poet To Huu who had written a devotional poem entitled Emily, My Child.

“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.” – Edmund Burke

“He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” – Charles Péguy

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Eli Wiesel

“Morrison’s death was a tragedy not only for his family but also for me and the country. It was an outcry against the killing that was destroying the lives of so many Vietnamese and American youth” – Robert McNamara

Also on this day, in 1898 Johnny Campbell led the first organized cheering at a Golden Gopher’s football game.

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