One of the things I noticed right away in Middleton's book is that there doesn't seem to be a clear idea over what martyrdom is, including how to define it, what to think about it or how to respond to it. Another interesting thing about this is that it's both academically and religiously. I have always thought of martyrdom along religious lines and it’s interesting to me to think of it through Middleton’s point of view, being that all acts considered martyred by anyone should be analyzed under that pretext.
For example, Middleton examines whether Matthew Shepard could be and is considered a martyr. While I don’t attempt to agree or disagree with that, I think it’s worth noting that other people made him a martyr. It was upon his death that people gave him that label and began to spoke about his life and death in martyred terms. This to me, seems like an excellent example of Middleton’s overall guise in the book, that martyrdom is created by the narratives of people(s) lives.
In the painting of The Martyr of the Maccabees, the victims are obviously being held captive and condemned to what is assumed to be death. It’s depicted in a way to automatically assume victim and perpetrator, oppressed and oppressor. Yet, Middleton and the clip on self-immolation show that it’s not that easy and again, it comes back to narrative. The narrative in the painting is one of pity and punishment, and the viewer will make that distinction even if they know nothing of the story. I don’t think it’s a very large leap to see how that is done in current society, particularly in media. It’s might be worth considering, as outlandish as it seems, to consider whether the very recognition of a martyr, gives cause for there being any. Which is a little bit like Rick Steves statement, “My hunch is that if we were less easy to demonize, they’d have a tougher time recruiting these terrorists...”