Portland — where I grew up, and where I live again now — isn’t used to being attacked, but I’m proud of how many there are responding. The terror attack on our light rail system, in which two men were killed and another injured for trying to stop the abuse of Muslim passengers, has been understood as an attack on the city itself.
If citizens cannot accommodate the ways they are different from one another, a democratic city is impossible. Diversity — and the principle of kindness toward people who are different from you — is as essential to our city’s functioning as a water supply is. So attacks on diversity are as much of a threat as attacks on our water supply.
Public transit, in particular, is always under attack, in part because of the levels of mutual respect that it requires. No moment in urban life requires such intimate contact with diversity as the time spent on transit. You are closer than you might like to people who are different from you, and unlike on the street, you can’t just walk away. Sharing space on a bus or train requires 100 little adjustments, tiny acts of respect or accommodation. Not everyone can do this. So for those trained to read diversity as danger, hatred of public transit is understandable.
The healthiest response to this kind of attack, I think, is to take it personally, as most Portlanders I know are doing. We should understand that the hatred is directed at each of us. This is moral outrage that resonates through at least three tiers of concern: It’s an attack on our own values as individuals, and also on our city, and also on the whole idea of civilization. Feel how similar those three ways of being offended really are.
Then respond with an outrage that remains fused with kindness for one another. For that is the whole point.