Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day: Tribute to those who died in defense of American freedom

We Americans tend to see Memorial Day as a two-faced holiday. The first side relates to its original purpose: a day set aside to remember those who died in service to our country. Graves are decorated, prayers said, flags flown, some proudly, others somberly at half-mast. The other side of Memorial Day is the three day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Barbecues are lit, pools are opened, and frisbees are thrown on trim green lawns. A hard truth of this world is this: without the first, the second would cease to exist.

Which brings me to today's topic. On Friday afternoon, a passenger on a Portland Oregon commuter train began a tirade against two other passengers. The man's words were full of hate speech and aimed at the young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, the other of whom is black. In fear for the women's safety, three other passengers moved in to try to calm the man down. He continued his racist rant and attacked those trying to calm him. He stabbed all three of them, killing two: Army veteran Rick Best and recent college graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai MecheThe third man was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

These three men stood against hate-speech, defending a basic freedom: for two young women to ride the train in peace. By doing so, they symbolically stood up for the right for all Americans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, whatever, to go about their business without harassment or intimidation.

I believe a comprehensive list of those who died in service to our country would include Best and Meche. As we honor our military dead this weekend, we also ought to take a moment to remember those non-military folks who have fought right here at home in the belief that the freedoms we hold so dear are indeed for all of us.  

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