Memorial Day honors the roughly 670,000 American soliders who have died fighting for freedom abroad. But today we need to add one more casualty, a military vet who died fighting for freedom at home.
Last Friday, on a Portland, Oregon commuter train, a white racist Trump fan who liked to spew his views on Facebook (“If Trump is the next Hitler, then I’m joining the SS”) took it upon himself to hurl anti-Muslim insults at two teenagers of color, one of whom wore a hijab. As one of the girls (American-born, not Muslim) later recalled, “He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country. He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”
As the girls fled in fear to the rear of the train car, three men stepped forward to confront the white racist (who turned out to be a regular attendee at alt-right rallies; who was seen in public last month flashing the Hitler salute). The men tried to reason with the racist. They explained that it was wrong to disrespect the young ladies. The racist responded by knifing two of the men to death, and putting the third man in the hospital.
One of the dead men was Ricky John Best, an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who retired with the rank of platoon sergeant in 2012 after 23 years of military service. He stood up for two girls he didn’t know, speaking out against hatred, and died for his selfless courage. The white racist (whose name will not sully this column; who celebrated Trump’s Inauguration by posting his belief that “all Jihadi Muslims are going to the Ovens”) has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder.
We will wait in vain for Trump to tweet a word about this incident.
He’s still pushing a travel ban, targeting six countries whose refugees are responsible for zero deaths on American soil, yet here’s a home-grown terrorist – a purveyor of what the Portland police are calling “extremist ideology” – charged with killing an American vet. Which is eerily similar to what happened at the University of Maryland earlier this month, when a member of a racist group called Alt-Reich Nation was charged with fatally stabbing Richard Collins, a young black man who was recently commissioned as an Army lieutenant.
Trump tweeted four times yesterday about “fake news,” once to praise his European trip, and once to praise the Montana candidate who’s charged with assaulting a reporter. Somehow the deadly violence on his right flank – and Ricky John Best’s sacrifice – continues to escape his notice. But we certainly don’t need Trump’s imprimatur.
To honor Best and his sacrifice, we can simply quote from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Memorial Day message. He said that “the same principles and revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought and died are still at issue,” and that these challenges “can be met only through the same qualities of courage, strength, and unflinching determination shown by our noble dead.”
Well said, JFK. Had tragedy not intervened, and had he been blessed with longevity, he would’ve turned 100 years old today.
Finally, late this morning, after nearly three days of silence, the official POTUS Twitter account coughed this up: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable.”
But Trump’s aides have access to the official POTUS account; one of them likely ghostwrote that tweet. In other words, Trump has still said nothing on his personal account – the one he routinely uses to rant and lie.