Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Wind In Their Sails

I'm not afraid to say I'm a coward. That's the only thing I'm not afraid of. Everything else is on the table. The fastest I've ever moved was the time I launched myself down two flights of stairs (I admit the gravity assist) to get away from a man who was beginning to have a grand mal seizure. I didn't realize that was what was happening to him, and my instincts drove me down at something approaching 120 mph, taking wind resistance into account, and ultimately behind a locked door and a refrigerator.

I'm not afraid of death, in principle; probably less afraid of it than many people I know who have a punched ticket to an afterlife. Nevertheless, my body and brain invariably catapult me away from danger faster than I can assess it. I even distance myself from a loud argument, like it's a snarl in tiger territory.

I don't take light rail often. The MAX train I'm most likely to be on would drop me off at the 42nd Street Station, which is where a fresh Nazi with a large knife just murdered two men and butchered a third. Had I been on that train at the time, I would have demonstrated my strength and courage by pushing out a window of the car and blasting across the tracks until my empty lungs left me gaping in the gravel.

The Nazi in question is in custody and has a lengthy history of vitriol and violence. Recently, at a rally, he dressed himself in a flag and tights like Superman. Like some kid wearing his skivvy-shorts over his pajamas, draped in a terry-cloth cape. His emotional range did not rise over the first-grade level either. This guy is incoherently pissed off. Life stranded him, somehow, left him lying on a beach with a dangerous sense of powerlessness. Seems as if there are more and more like him all the time. And all of them are starting to feel some wind in their sails.

He had gotten on the train intent on terrifying a couple of teenage girls, one black and the other wearing a hijab. This is what makes him feel alive. The man had slipped his hinges many stops ago and had more hatred than he could hold in.

And then three men intervened. One was a poet; one was a recent college grad; one was an Army veteran. Three men stood up and put themselves between an enraged, self-righteous wretch and his innocent targets. Two of these men lost their lives and the third is just hanging on.

Their mothers, right now, are wishing more than anything that they had raised more cowardly men.

We are urged to send them our thoughts and prayers.

I don't pray. It would feel like talking into a toy telephone. But I do have thoughts, and more.

Today, my thoughts are with the families of these three brave men, with my gratitude to their mothers that they did not raise cowards. Because of their sacrifice, the Portland community and the community of humankind can hold onto hope. Because of them, we can pull ourselves out of despair and complacency. I have thoughts, and I have a vote.

And my vote will never go to anyone who schemes to shred the fabric of our tribe into rags, who plays us against each other for profit. My vote will never benefit one bent toward war or its relative, greed. I would love to say that my vote might go to a Republican, and maybe some day that will happen, but today is not that day.

31 comments:

  1. Woody Allen said it best for me: "I'm not afraid of dying.... I just don't want to be there when it happens."

    I would be right with you, Murr, scrambling for a way to get out. I don't know what makes some people intervene and others run. We all have the "fight or flight" response. Maybe you and I have more "flight", and these three heroes had more "fight".

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    1. That is also one of my favorite quotes.

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  2. I would love to say that my vote might go to a Republican, and maybe some day that will happen, but today is not that day.

    Not until they've changed so much that they are no longer "Republicans" as we use the term now.

    I stopped riding the MAX years ago. There often seemed to be a vague sense of menace or at least suppressed chaos about it, more than on the buses. I think it's because there's no authority figure (driver or conductor) actually in the same space with the passengers.

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    1. I seem to recall various Oregon Republicans worthy of a vote. At least one governor, a senator or two. But that was a while back.

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  3. Hoping our DC metro system does not turn into something dark and dangerous as I do like using it to get around that city. I thank you for your post for this brave and beautiful men. I do not know my reaction to a situation. It would depend on many variables, but I would hope that I could be braver if not foolish. The Republican Party is no longer whole. They have various factions, a few of which would still put the country above everything else.

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    1. I've always preferred subways and light rail to buses, but the light rail around here doesn't go anywhere I want to go. And you can't hijack trains.

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  4. I don't use the word "pray." It seems overused and meaningless, somewhere in the category of "fine," as a response to "How are you?" If I did use the word, I'd say your thoughts were close to prayers, as close as a person can get. Not in the limited sense of talking to god in the sky, but in the way something becomes big and meaningful in our minds, and we wrap ourselves around it.
    I'm a flight person, too, married to a fight person, a situation that causes heart attack symptoms.

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    1. Yes it does! Been there. Gaaaah.

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    2. I am also a flight person married to a fight person. Gaaah indeed.

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    3. To some extent it's a male/female thing, with too many exceptions to make the "rule" useable.

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  5. My heart hurts for the families & friends of these fine men. The ultimate price to pay for hope. We are in desperate need of better mental health assessments & help for these dangerous angry people as our population grows out of control. Our direction seems to be off course for now. Voting is more important than ever! People!

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    1. Stand and be counted. The Alt-Right is holding a rally soon in Portland and my hope is that a thousand of us to one of them will show up and sing, or be silent, but just be.

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  6. I'm thinking of those families, too. One deranged person can cause so much permanent damage and heartbreak; it takes one's breath away.

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    1. And when that deranged person is terror-bent, he has so many more victims. He has fear to dispense.

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  7. I run away from arguments, but run toward injuries (too much training) so I guess I am a contradiction. When I think back to Republicans like Eisenhower or Gerald Ford I can actually smile, but today's crop are nothing like them. I only hope that voters will be using both of their brain cells and maybe a little of their hearts in the next elections.

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    1. Interesting thing about people trained to respond to injury: they do. Even those of us who start out scared can toughen up a lot if we have skills.

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  8. My heart aches with and for the family of these men. And I was awed to read that the poet penned more poetry when he came out of surgery.
    These words are his:
    “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.”

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    1. He also showed up at the arraignment yesterday, zipper-neck and all.

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  9. The one guy with the longer name was from Ashland and I live in Medford so there was/is a lot of press on it here. So sad and senseless, as all murders are. Where do these people get the ideas in their brains? What makes them think they are better than the rest of us? I sit and shake my head as my eyes tear. Hollywood station, fergodsakes. Going to Grant High on Saturday. How safe? I can't sit at home and wonder. I just have to do things. Don't hold your breath. Just DO.

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    1. I'm sure you'll be safe, Mari. I promise.

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  10. About being in Portland this weekend: I will walk with my head high and keep track of my surroundings. I will not wear anything religious to attract attention. No Star of David. I will be anonymous to be safe. Chickening out on society? Maybe. But traveling alone these days, I have to think out loud.

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    1. You're right to be cautious and aware. I'm tempted to start wearing a hijab but it took me so long to make the pussy hat...

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  11. "Their mothers, right now, are wishing more than anything that they had raised more cowardly men." As a mother, that would also have been my wish. But also a sense of pride that my son did the right thing shining a light in the darkness.

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  12. " a dangerous sense of powerlessness" you have such a way with words, I truly envy you this skill.
    I would say this powerlessness is based on fear as much as hatred and an inability to be reasoned with, like a toddler in a tantrum.
    I missed this information because I haven't been watching the news lately and I'm very very sorry to hear it here now.

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    1. It's not the worst thing to take a break from the news now and then. Self-preservation, and all that.

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  13. Back in the 60's when I was going to Lewis and Clark College, the Governor was a liberal republican, Mark Hatfield. He was much admired.

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  14. Ah, Murr. Thank you for putting your thoughts to paper. They comfort, encourage and strengthen me.

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