On this day where Christians pause to reflect upon the grim death by crucifixion of Jesus, I thought it might be worthwhile to commemorate a few notable figures who have given their lives to advance a noble cause. The question of what constitutes a martyr is itself a controversial one. I think this is because the cause or causes these men and women advanced were often quite polarizing, and many times their frequently imperfect behavior in their personal lives distracts and detracts from the good works they did during their time on earth. Character flaws are true for all of us, but when too many of them are present in the court of popular opinion, even a history of good works cannot redeem them.
To Islamic extremists, the 11 September 2001 hijackers were considered martyrs, though most people around the world do not believe that this. Martyrdom has been extended to people who were intrinsically secular and not particularly religious, also. In truth, I think there are few martyrs who would make almost everyone's list just like there are few people who have ever lived who are universally praised. Who would be on your list?
Here are a few martyrs I thought notable.
1. Joan of Arc
2. Mohandas K. Gandhi
3. Harvey Milk. This is a controversial selection.