The best of our nation stood against the worst on a homebound commuter train in Portland, Oregon on Friday, May 26. By now I’m sure you’ve heard the story of white terrorist Jeremy Christian stabbing three men who came to the aid of two girls he was intimidating.
According to CNN, Destinee Magnum, an African-American teenager, was riding the train with a friend who was wearing a hijab when Christian became abusive and started screaming at them. When a fellow passenger tried to calm him down, he grew more abusive and the girls tried to move to the back of the train. That’s when Ricky John Best, a military veteran, and Taliesin Myrdin Namkai-Meche, a recent college graduate, stepped in and told the assailant that he wasn’t allowed to intimidate the girls. In a minute, Portland State University student Micah Fletcher also stood up for the girls. According to eyewitness accounts, Christian pulled a knife from his pocket and started stabbing the three men in the throat. Best tried to stop him, was attacked and died immediately.
In the resulting melee, passengers fled the train, but some stayed to help. Namkai-Meche told a woman who used her shirt for a bandage and held his hand, “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.” He died when he arrived at the hospital.
Fletcher survived the attack and was released from the hospital after surgery. The Muslim-American community raised nearly a half-million dollars for his hospital bills, as well as for the families of Best and Namkai-Meche. Fletcher expressed his gratitude, but said in a video that it was far more important to make sure the two girls were taken care of. “We need to remember that this is about those little girls. …They are the real victims here. Their lives will never be the same.”
As Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times, what unites these three men who showed remarkable leadership was decency. I applaud Kristof’s suggestion about Best, “He fell on the battlefield of American values. He deserves the chance to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
This is what it means to be a witness, protector, defender, activist, resister and revolutionist. It’s taking a stand against allowing the abnormal to become normal. Fletcher, who is a gifted poet, put it best in a Facebook post after his surgery:
"I am alive,
I spat in the eye of hate and lived.
This is what we must do for one another
We must live for one another
We must fight for one Mother
We must die in the name of freedom if we have to.
Luckily it's not my turn today."
How could anyone not be inspired to stand alongside them?
Photo credit: WTVR