Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Dying Man’s Gift of Awareness

“Tell them, I want everybody to know, I want everybody on the train to know, I love them . . .”

These words are also part of the geopolitics of murder — these words of light and hope, alive and pulsing amid the bullet casings, the blood and wreckage, the shattered lives. They were the dying words of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, one of the two people stabbed to death last week on a commuter train in Portland, Ore., after they had intervened to stop a man’s tirade of racial slurs — “go back to Saudi Arabia! — directed at two teenage girls on the train.

As incidents of mass murder — sometimes called terrorism, sometimes just called, with a shrug, drone strikes or bombing runs — continue to erupt across the planet and dominate the news, I stroke these words, and the soul of awareness we are so blind to. We’re not going to bomb evil out of existence or control it with authoritarian laws, travel bans or insane walls. We’re not going to control it by dehumanizing “the other.”

The Portland murders are old news now. It was over a week ago that the suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, went on a drunken rant against the two girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab, then stabbed Namkai-Meche, along with Ricky John Best, who also died, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who managed to survive his neck wound.

A local TV station interviewed witness Rachel Macy, who knelt at Meche’s side as he died. “I just didn’t want him to be alone,” she said. “I took my shirt off and put it on him. We held it together, I just prayed, all I could do was pray.

“I told him, ‘You’re a beautiful man. I’m so sorry the world is so cruel.’”

And then he said: “I want everybody on the train to know I love them.”

And somehow, no, the news cycle does not move on. Despite the horror and violence and hatred, this moment, too, is part of our world — and reaches beyond itself, reaches into the heart of every occupant of Planet Earth. I don’t know what it changes, but I know it opens a door.

Macy also said: “I wanted to wake up and be mad and blame something or someone. And I can’t. It’s not what he would have wanted.”

But who am I kidding? The news cycle does, indeed, move on. “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism!” the murder suspect exclaimed when he made his court appearance. Where would he get that idea?

Within days, three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, then exited the van and started stabbing people. At least eight people were killed and 50 injured; the three terrorists were shot and killed by police. ISIS claimed credit.

Two days later, a former employee entered the RV accessory business in Orlando, Fla., from which he had been fired in April and started shooting, killing five people. He then turned the gun on himself. This happened a week prior to the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, when a gunmen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

And two days after that, men disguised as women, armed with assault rifles and grenades, stormed the Parliament building and the site of the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, killing at least 12 people. ISIS claimed credit for that, too.

This is the news we’re used to. This is our world. Each incident is reported separately, self-contained, a fragment of hell. If it’s declared an act of terror, then the link is made to ISIS or whomever. If it’s a mass murder, the killer is simply disgruntled or disturbed and always a loner. But the stories converge anyway, like a rolling shockwave of unsanctioned violence. Whatever the killers’ intention or strategic aim, the news is the terrible pain and grief they have inflicted, the innocence they have violated. It’s always the same, and we can always feel it.

But we deal in violence anyway. When it’s state-sanctioned, we rally around it, glorify it, worship it. No matter it produces the same results. No matter it always comes back to haunt us, one way or another.

In the wake of the Portland stabbings—days later–came this presidential tweet: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/them.” But the president also wants to push through a $110 billion weapons deal with ISIS-linked Saudi Arabia, which has been pummeling its impoverished neighbor Yemen for the last two years — and which has been receiving U.S. assistance throughout the process, which Trump wants to amplify.

Last fall, the New York Times reported that the Saudi war “has sunk into a grinding stalemate, systematically obliterating Yemen’s already bare-bones economy. . . . It has hit hospitals and schools. It has destroyed bridges, power stations, poultry farms, a key seaport and factories that produce yogurt, tea, tissues, ceramics, Coca-Cola and potato chips. It has bombed weddings and a funeral.

“The bombing campaign has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country, where cholera is spreading, millions of people are struggling to get enough food, and malnourished babies are overwhelming hospitals. . . . “

And, oh yeah: U.S. weapons sales to the Saudis, U.S. training of Saudi pilots, have left “American fingerprints” all over the wreckage, according to the Times. In Sana’a, the capital city, walls are covered with graffiti exclaiming: “America is killing the Yemeni people.”

The essence of war is “social substitutability”: granting oneself permission to dehumanize people who symbolize a problem, whether because of their uniform, their race, their nationality, their religion, their place of employment — or virtually any other distinguishing factor. A dehumanized enemy can then be taken out: murdered.

When disgruntled loners play this game, the results are appalling. When state-sanctioned professionals do it . . . they have to keep on doing it. Waging war is, with very few exceptions, the nation’s political, economic and moral cornerstone.

Consider the alternative: “Tell them, I want everybody to know, I want everybody on the train to know, I love them.”

This is one man’s dying awareness. What if it were the cornerstone of our global social order?

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail