I have been having a hard time processing the rising number of hate crimes in this country. Harder still processing the seeming silence of so many, both in my own life and on the political stage. Every time an Indian American man is killed I hug my half-Indian boyfriend tighter, wondering if he will be next. Every time I text him to get paper towels on his way home, I wonder if my simple request is what will get him killed. When he wears his Sith costume to DM a Star Wars game or wears a kurta to work, I wonder if that is what will get him mistaken for a terrorist by some idiot who cannot even properly identify the people he ignorantly hates.
But this recent act of terrorism in Portland, that claimed two lives and nearly claimed a third, has affected me more than I was prepared for. After two nearly sleepless nights and a fullblown anxiety attack while watching Harry Potter Weekend, I tried to process my feelings by putting them into words. Words, whether spoken, written, sung, keened, or carved in stone on a memorial are how we process these evils. How we remember who sacrificed and for what. Stories of heroes like Arthur, Aragorn, and Harry Potter are what we need when the world grows dark and uncertain and the right path grows more daunting or harder to find.
These fictional heroes are the best of us, our real flesh and blood heroes writ large across timeless stories that are still very much stories of their times. This is why I became a writer in the first place. So I hope you will take the time to read my words. I hope that they help in some small way as we, like Theoden, wonder what to do against such reckless hate.
Before I saw the caption, I legitimately thought the picture of one of the men who died in Portland was three different friends from Hampshire College when I was scrolling by it, before I realized what it was and what it meant. And it easily could have been. He looks like a Hampshire kid. Hell, I even went to Hampshire with a Taliesin. He looks like a UU kid. He looks like so many people I know. He was a kid on a train in Portland. He could easily have been one of my friends or classmates or loved ones. And a rightwing extremist murdered him because he did the right thing.
He stood up for what was right. He did exactly what we all hope someone will do. He was the kind of person we raise our children to be and hope that we ourselves will be. And a radicalized terrorist murdered him for it.
To his mother, and all those he leaves behind, I have no words that can express my profound sympathy for such a random, unimaginable loss. But I also want to thank them. I thank his mother for raising the kind of American and the kind of person we all should strive to be. I have no flag to offer her, but, to me, she is a Gold Star mother. And on this, the eve of Memorial Day, I honor her loss and his sacrifice with all of my heart and all of the reverence and gratitude I possess, knowing it will never be enough to make up for what was taken.
To my fellow Hampshire alum, scruffy-haired hippie kids, pagan kids, and everyone else I know who this so easily could have been, know that I love you. I want you all to be safe. With every fiber of my being. I pray to whatever gods we create and recreate in such times that you will be safe and loved and happy all the days of your hopefully long lives.
But I also hope all of us will be brave. That we will be noble and strong and stand up for those who need heroes like Taliesin. Like the mythic heroes Taliesin takes his name from, who we cling to and look to and are inspired by in times such as these. Heroes we all have within us. Like Dumbledore says, soon we may all face a choice between doing what is right and what is easy. Or what is safe.
Fac fortia et patere, my friends. Do brave deeds and endure. Reckless hate threatens our world, our neighbors, our classmates, our friends, our children, and the soul of our nation. Let us ride out against it. Even if we are afraid. Even if there is a cost higher than we knew. Because it is the right thing to do. Because it is the only thing to do.