American heroism

Molly is in the other room. She’s putting Minnie and Mary to bed and I can hear “Tomorrow” playing from her phone. 

Next to me, Michael is rustling as he falls asleep. 

All weekend, I’ve thought about the brave trio of Americans who stood up for two young women on a Portland-area train. It’s just the most recent episode of a white nationalist terrorizing this country.  That it happened just as Memorial Day weekend was dawning – and with one of the heroes who died having been a veteran – might mean the event gets more attention than some of the other in incidents. 

Those men, and others who have recently stood up to the white nationalism that has increased since President Trump announced he was running for office, didn’t set out to be heroes. We don’t know why they stood up for strangers. We hope it was something innate. An All-American chivalry. But they weren’t the only heroes on the train. We have to remember the other people, those who helped. The EMTs who went into a dangerous situation. And we have to remember those two girls. 

They’re American heroes too. I don’t know what their dreams were. If they wanted to be doctors or teachers. Police officers or service women. But they were Americans. As American as George Washington, Barack Obama or Sandra Day O’Connor. Now, though, those young ladies will be haunted be the actions of an ignorant coward who literally wrapped himself in the flag, even though he had no comprehension of what those Stars and Stripes reflect. 

I love Memorial Day. It’s a somber holiday that makes us reflect on some of the reasons why we have what we do. When I was a cub reporter, I enjoyed visiting with vets at ceremonies, often wondering why more people didn’t attend, rarely realizing that without my job requiring me to be there, I’d have likely been asleep. But I’ve always had a small issue with Memorial Day. There is no doubt we should honor our fallen servicemen and women. But they aren’t the only people who have died protecting what Old Glory represents. Medgar Evers, Dr. King,  James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo, among so many others, have died here at home in a different form of service to our country. The same is true of veterans who make it home, but take their own lives. I’ve always felt we need to take time to remember them, too. So we must remember Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best. And we cannot forget Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who survived, or the people who helped, or those two girls. They all represent the best in us. reports that before dying, Namkai-Meche said, “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”

As I finish writing this, I realize there are families out so horrifically touched by this tragedy that they fear tomorrow. The country faces an existential threat here at home with the growth of white nationalism. But we can take some solace in knowing that the real patriots vastly outnumber the Jeremy Joseph Christians. I truly believe our founding creed is becoming that more perfect union promised in the Constitution. So far, each generation has moved us in that direction. Our challenge is to commit to reaching that destiny. 

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