Death in Oregon, Asininity in Europe

Jeremy Joseph Christian
Three men had their throats slashed on a commuter train in Portland (100 miles up the road from where I live), last weekend while trying to diffuse a situation in which two teenage girls--one black, the other white and wearing a hijab--were being insulted by Jeremy Christian. Although the train was crowded, only these three spoke up, and two of them were killed.

I'm no fan of Ayn Rand, the atheist writer who has inspired right-wing religious Republicans, but I've read several of her books. One of the questions she raised was: why should a person die for a stranger? Yes, why? What is the rationale for depriving your loved ones of your existence by dying for someone about whose nature you are ignorant? Although we praise those who risk their lives, which of us would even give a kidney for a stranger?

One of the men who died had four children. Was it right for him to deprive his children of a father? Would it be right for me to deprive Peggy of a husband?

Fifty years ago, I saw a man beating another man with a pistol. When I yelled, "Stop!" he turned the pistol on me, and I ran. It's not a decision that I have regretted.

I would guess that, out of every hundred people who die for a stranger, nearly all are young men, suggesting that evolution has arranged things so that the impetus to jump into the fray falls upon those who are the best able to come out alive.
Ayn Rand 1905-1982

A major downside of dying for someone is that it eliminates every other good thing a person might have done in life. The people whom I most respect aren't the ones who die for something, but the ones who live for something. For instance there's my blog buddy ( who has devoted her life to rescuing cats. Instead of praising Jodi for her sacrifice in spending her time and money on cats, and her heroism in crawling under abandoned houses and setting live traps in bad neighborhoods, most people contemptuously call her "the cat lady." This points to another thing about heroes: to win human approbation, they must help humans. Another misgiving I have about those Portland heroes is that I respect few of the people I know enough to die for them, so I'm hardly keen on dying for a stranger....

Maybe I would die for a child--particularly a child I knew--because I don't have a lot of years left to live anyway (call my thoughts about this a matter of economy, if you will). I would imagine that most people feel "programmed" to protect children without regard to either person's gender. But where the protector is male it's "women and children first." When I reflect upon the behavior of the men on the Titanic, I'm struck by the thought that all of those men who, it would appear, deemed their lives as less valuable than women's nonetheless denied legal, social, and political equality to women....

1 of 1,000s of Jodi's rescues
I heard a black woman on the radio say that the men who died in Portland wouldn't be receiving much praise had they been black. If the children they died protecting had been white, I suppose this same woman would have said they wouldn't have died for black children...

The only difference--within myself--that I can image had the men been black would be that their deaths would have countered my image of black people as criminals based upon the fact that the only black people I see on the local news are athletes and criminals, and even then, the athletes are often on the news because they got in trouble with the law. Because of this image, it's easier for a black person to make a favorable impression on me because I so much want to think well of blacks that I cling to their every act of virtue.

Because I so hate Islam, Peggy asked if I would have been less likely to speak up because one of the girls was wearing a hijab. Although I deplore hijabs (which I see as a sure symbol of gender oppression), the fact that one of the girls was wearing one wasn't the issue. The issue was that they were children who were being abused by a depraved bully. Speculating about what I might have done is an irresistible impossibility because I cannot know. All I can know is that, while I don't want to die for nothing, it doesn't follow that I wouldn't die for anything.

Ever the asshole
In other news... I was so outraged by Donald Trump's boorish behavior in Europe (my opinion of Trump is such that I rather think he would have approved of the behavior of the Portland bully, although he would have been too self-serving to have killed anyone himself), that I wrote to a newspaper in Montenegro. At least I tried to write, first to one newspaper in Montenegro, and then to every newspaper in Montenegro, but not a single email got through. I offer this letter as example of the kind of thing that I often do, and that might even, over the long-term, have more impact than martyrdom. In any event, it makes me feel better to do this kind of thing than to not do it.

"I am a lifelong citizen of the United States, and I live in Eugene, Oregon. I am writing to ask your forgiveness for an incident in which the childish man who represents my nation to the world shoved aside the man who represents your nation to the world. Neither I nor most of the people of my nation voted for Donald Trump, yet his boorish behavior reflects negatively upon us.

"After witnessing the campaign which put Trump into office, combined with the months he has been in office, I have come to understand Donald Trump fairly well—it’s easy to see the bottom of a shallow puddle—but what I don’t understand is why Dusko Markovic didn’t object to Trump shoving him aside as if he were a dead limb on a unwanted shrub. As if that apparent acceptance of his relative unimportance were not bad enough, Markovic added, “It is natural that the president of the United States is in the front row.”

"Sad though it is for the people of my nation to be represented by a brainless narcissist like Donald Trump, is it not also sad for the people of your nation to be represented by a man who fails to speak up when the dignity of his nation has been offended?"