Modern Hero: Tuğçe Albayrak

You don’t have to go down in the history books to be a hero.

Two weeks ago, Tuğçe Albayrak, a 23-year-old teaching student, came to the aid of two young teenagers being harassed by three men in a McDonald’s bathroom in Offenbach, Germany. Albayrak confronted the men and they were thrown out of the restaurant. When she left the restaurant, however, the men attacked her with a heavy, blunt object, like a baseball bat or a rock. After two weeks in a coma from which she has no hope of recovering, her parents have taken her off of life support.

People rally in Berlin to remember Tuğçe Albayrak, who died after being beaten in an apparent revenge attack. Photograph: Maurizio Gambarini/dpa/Corbis

Every human life is precious. Every life lost simply out of anger or intolerance is a scar on the face of humanity, a face which already has so many scars. So today, look around you. Look at the people you love, look at the people you like, look at the people you see outside your car window and remember that everyone is precious.
Remember all of the people, like Tuğçe Albayrak who have died at the hands of misogynistic men. Remember all of the people who, like Michael Brown, have died at the hands of racist people or cops or racist cops. Remember all of the people who have died to save another person’s life. Remember all of the young people who have died when their lives were just beginning, remember all of the people who have died because of the color of their skin or their religion or their nationality or their gender or sexuality. Remember all of these people and remember that even if you didn’t know them, their lives mattered.


Women in Power: Angela Merkel

Since I’m talking about women who have changed the world, I would be remiss in failing to mention Angela Merkel. Named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of Germany and a woman of many “firsts.” She was Germany’s first female chancellor, for example, and probably the first woman to ever be called “Europe’s most powerful leader.”

Angela Merkel looking official and witty and wise

I, for one, happen to think she’s pretty cool.  I mean, her long run as chancellor while so many European countries are going through heads of state like they are tissues in cold season is impressive; you’ve got to admire her constant leadership. And since I have a thing for scientific women, I’ll also mention that Merkel has a doctorate in physics and wrote her thesis on reactions of hydrocarbons. How’s that for multi-talented? Apparently, she’s also one-quarter Polish and bakes a mean pastry. So she’s always one to watch: see how she “plays with the big boys” in world politics and it’ll be obvious to you that her mandatory skirt and heels don’t stop her from keeping up.

Don’t let her smile fool you: she has power and she uses it with style.