Yesterday I took my 4-year-old son to the zoo. It sounds like a typical outing. A day of mother-son bonding while looking at rhino butts and giant tortoises getting it on (that was interesting).
This was different though. Because the zoo we went to was the Oregon Zoo, and we got there via Portland’s light rail system. Our route brought us right past the Hollywood Transit Center where the blood splattered train was stopped because of a terrorist attack.
The public transit system is one of the main reasons I chose to remain in Portland after graduating from college. Even with glasses, my vision is so poor that I’m not allowed to get a driver’s license. Luckily, the bus and light rail, also known as the MAX, is super-convenient and goes anywhere I need to go either by myself or with my two young kids.
Unlike the small town I grew up in, my family and I can still have a life without a car.
But now that life that we have, and the community we love, has been threatened by terrorism. Violence. Islamophobia. Hatred.
Initially, I was terrified to get back on the train. If this kind of violence could happen on an otherwise normal weekday, what’s to stop it from happening again? And with even more frequency and by a larger group rather than just one evil madman?
The night of the terror, while lying in bed, I asked myself if I would have had the same courage to stand up to hatred that those three men did. I truly would like to think that I would, I feel like I would, and I would want to be the person to stand up and say, “Not today, motherfucker,” but I’ve never actually been faced with something quite like this before.
And the fear of “but what if my kids are with me?” pierced my heart, and I had to do some soul-searching to reach an answer. Because my children are the most important thing in my life. I would die for them. I would never want to put them in harm’s way, or exacerbate an evil terrorist in their presence.
And yet, the truth of the matter is that it’s my job (and privilege) to teach my children to stand up to hate and intolerance. To stand up for those who can’t fight back when they are under attack. To stand beside those who need love and compassion, and to push back against anyone who wishes to do harm — physical, mental, or emotional — to another human being. This is not a part of my job that I take lightly, so ensuring they are safe, regardless of the outcome, of course I would have to do what is right in the eyes of my children should we ever be in such a situation.
In short: I would rather be harmed while doing what is right than explain to my children why I did the wrong thing by not acting at all.
It would be easy to shrink back in fear — so easy. To forgo the life we’ve built because someone may or may not attack someone while we’re on the train, and we may have to stand up and fight for what is right and good, and that may be a very scary situation. But the hard truth is, it’s scary sometimes to do the right thing. But we must always do the right thing whether we’re afraid or not.
And the right thing for me and my kids is to continue on with our life more vigilant, with our eyes and ears wide open, and our hearts ready to let loose a battle cry in the name of love for our neighbors.
Yesterday I took my son to the zoo. And sometime this week we’ll probably take the train to IKEA. And next week and the week after, we’ll ride that same train again and again because I refuse to let terrorism and hatred and violence and fear take away my right to live or the lives of anyone else in my community.
In some way or another, love wins. Always.
If you would like to donate to help the survivors and victims’ families of this devastating tragedy, you can find a resource list here.