On Friday afternoon, May 26, 2017, on a MAX commuter train in Northeast Portland, Oregon, a man began verbally abusing two women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, with racist, anti-Muslim insults. When other passengers intervened, the man pulled a knife and attacked. Two men died. Another was taken to a hospital. The alleged attacker is in custody.
I live in Oregon. My daughter works in Portland and rides MAX almost every day. She posted an article, These are the Victims of the Portland Train Stabbing Attack, which shared who the two men were who stood up as allies to the women being victimized, and lost their lives.
I wrote on Facebook, “Heartbreaking. Horrific. On the eve of Ramadan. Here in my state of Oregon. Prayers for the victims; for all who are harmed by this racist, fear-fueled attack. Prayers for Peace.”
Responses ranged from people expressing horror and deep sadness, to offering prayers for the victims, to opinions about the attacker. And my friends began challenging each other’s opinions, questioning conclusions, offering counter-opinions. Emotions ran high. I f0und myself becoming emotionally charged. Why is this white supremacist with a prison record even walking the streets? How much blame can we place on the President of the United States for stoking anti-Muslim, xenophobic behavior? Why does our nation focus so little on mental health services for those who need them? And why are my friends, many of whom don’t know each other, going after each other on Facebook? Why am I tempted to delete some of their comments?
We need spaces to process our feelings about horrific events. Facebook, awkward as it often is, has become a major sight for such processing. And we try to teach, convince, change, belittle, attack, support, commiserate, and share with each other.
My invitation to myself, which I extend to all, is to be careful with my judgments. Be cautious with my conclusions about what others write. Ask myself if Facebook is the best place to share my deeply felt, emotionally-charged opinions in this moment. I invite myself, and extend to all, to be kind first, to be patient first, to offer grace first, and in this particular situation, to remember that two men have died, one man is in the hospital, two women are deeply traumatized, one man is in jail, many witnesses, bystanders, supporters, family members, friends, police, and caregivers are also traumatized to one degree or another. So is my daughter. So am I. So are other friends and family members here in Oregon. So are my friends who have only read about this incident and live very far away. Because incidents like this happen every single day in cities throughout the United States and around the world. And they impact us; our sense of well-being and safety.
The day before the attack, I participated in a Guided Meditation Community Conference Call sponsored by Coming to the Table, the anti-racism, peacebuilding community to which I’m blessed to have been a part for more than a decade. These meditation calls are offered by CTTT twice each month, organized by a Working Group focused on Meditation as a Healing Resource; specifically on racial healing. The facilitator utilized a recording of “Black Lives Matter Meditation for Healing Racial Trauma.” We came together by phone from locations throughout the United States; sat together as a small community of people focused on healing. Anyone reading these words is welcome to click on the links above to check out the many resources the Working Group has gathered, and to join us for future guided meditation calls. The next two are June 17 and June 25. My additional invitation to myself, which I extend to all, is to focus first on healing myself. When I am healthy, I am most able to be of service in the healing of others.
The facilitator of the guided meditation call on Thursday shared the following, which I share here, with hope and faith…
May we all be filled with compassion;
May we all be well in body and mind,
May we all be safe from inner and outer dangers,
And may we all be truly happy and free.