As we honored and remembered over the Memorial Day weekend so many who have died for justice and freedom, I found myself inordinately haunted by the Portland, Ore., stabbing of three men who came to the defense of two young women being bullied and harassed, allegedly by a white supremacist hurling anti-Muslim slurs. Two of the men died in the attack. The third was hospitalized in serious condition.
I nominate these three men – heroes all – for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This medal, the highest civilian award given in the United States, recognizes those who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
I nominate these three heroes because President Donald Trump has a moral obligation to recognize them as martyrs in the battle for human rights. Good Samaritans who spontaneously rose up against hateful bigotry and harassment, these men placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of strangers. Two paid the ultimate price: Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche was a recent Reed College graduate in economics who had his whole life before him; Ricky John Best served this country in the U.S. Army for 23 years and was a devoted husband and father. Micah Fletcher, still recovering from his wounds, is a poet who won a 2013 competition with a poem against anti-Muslim prejudice.
On Monday, Trump did state in his presidential Twitter account (@POTUS) that the attack was “unacceptable.” But Twitter commentary does not substitute for leadership, not on an issue of this magnitude.
No award can heal the damage done by such a monstrosity, but by conveying the highest civilian honor on these individuals, the Trump administration can honor three shining examples of American values at their best.
Karasik is a Washington, D.C., writer.