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What would I do?


Most people would like to think of themselves as the type of person who come to the aid of the fellow man, even step into harm’s way, if necessary.

On Friday, May 26, on a MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Center in Portland, three men—strangers to each other— fell victims to their own good intentions. The three men confronted a man who was verbally abusing two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were killed. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was injured.

These men saw what was happening and stepped in to help the young women against the threats of the man. Did they think about their own safety? Did they know that the raving, long-haired man had a knife? Did they consider the possibility of a weapon? In my mind these three men are real heroes, a word that is thrown around too much.

The three men jumped into action to protect the two young women; they saw something and did something. It would seem to be more than a fair fight, three men against one man. But when the element of a close-at-hand weapon is added to the mix, the balance of an altercation can shift.

Too often people will turn away from such scenes, suspecting it is nothing more than the ravings of a person with mental health issues. “Don’t get involved” are words that too easily become the default position.

In the world in which we now live, it will be harder for most people to not get involved when another person is in distress or under attack. There is safety in numbers. The outcome of a  one-on-one fight against the perpetrator of evil can go either way. When a group of people band together to stop harassment, assault or threats, the good guys win.

It does not have to be a life-or-death situation for people to do what is right. The time to think someone else’s suffering is not our problem is long gone. You can say that Oregon isn’t faced with the kind of terrorism other places in the world face, but there is no other name for what happened on that MAX train. A terrorist doesn’t have to be from a certain part of the globe or practice a certain religion. Society  suffers from terrorism every day, whether it is a schoolchild that is mercilessly bullied in person and via a social website, or, a woman (or a man) who is the victim of domestic violence that can happen at any time.

It is unwise for a lone person to inject themselves into a dangerous situation. Yet, we should solicit assistance from bystanders when someone else is in trouble.

We hope that the tragic events of last week in Portland is an isolated incident, but we can’t be sure, so we must always be alert to danger around us, especially when the most vulernable in our society is its victim.

I would like to think I am the kind of person who will step forward to protect someone. After the MAX train stabbings I’ll be more aware of my surroundings and not be afraid to take a call for the help of a stranger. When we band together to help, we are no longer strangers but brothers and sisters in a civilized society.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)