Declaring, “We choose love,” thousands gathered in Portland, Oregon on Saturday night to honor three victims of a savage hate crime on a local train, the pernicious, inexorable dross of the toxic times. Two vigils paid tribute to Rick Best, a 53-year old veteran and father of four, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, newly graduated from Reed College and interning for a consulting company – both killed – and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, a 21-year-old poet and activist, who survived his injuries. All three had stood up to a knife-wielding white supremacist spewing anti-Muslim venom at two young women, one wearing a hijab.
The men have been hailed as heroes for confronting what Taliesin’s family called today’s “insidious rift of prejudice and intolerance that is too familiar, too common.” A LaunchGood campaign spearheaded by Muslims to support the victims’ families has raised almost $400,000, and on Monday one of the targeted girls joined the tributes, issuing a tearful thanks to those who “put their life on the line for me.”
Most striking about the attack – apart from its hate-filled, stomach-churning violence – was the disparate responses by Americans and their alleged leader, the small, mean “man without a center.” Returned from a disaster-strewn trip abroad, Trump spent three days and 20 Tweets whining about “fake news” and other crap before deigning – not from his own account – to call the attack “unacceptable.” “I wish we would hear you say these names,” wrote Dan Rather of a story “that may not neatly fit into (your) narrative…They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or ‘radical Islamic terrorist.’ They were killed in an act of civic love.”
Others likewise resolutely focused on the good, with Namkai-Meche’s family urging “we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change.” Taliesin, they said, “lived a joyous and full life…In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward…We choose love.” His grieving, grace-filled mother Asha praised her “hero” son and “shining bright star.” Saturday, she embraced many at the vigil and declared, “Give it up for love!” before breaking down; leaving early, she said quietly, “He did the right thing.”